Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pineapple and Pear Mostarda

Something possessed me to buy a pineapple, without having a clue as to what I was going to do with it.  In the back of my mind, I think I was contemplating using it for my Daring Bakers' Tian, in combination with citrus.  The Tian went in a different direction, wtih blood oranges and sparkling shiraz, and the pineapple remained sitting on the counter.

It would have been too easy enjoying the fresh, sweet pineapple on its own, or chopped up with some yogurt.  Instead, I commenced an intensive Google "pineapple" search and came across La Cucina Italiana's article about Mostarda, an Italian condiment made of candied fruit and mustard flavored syrup.  I absolutely love trying new recipes, especially if they are Italian!  The article led me to La Cucina Italiana's recipe for Pineapple and Pear Mostarda, and a recommended pairing with Braised Beef Cheeks
I made the Mostarda first, called and located beef cheeks, but ultimately decided to pair it with pork this time. 

After the mostarda sat in the refrigerator overnight, I found it to be a bit too sweet and juicy. I added another tablespoon of mustard powder and splash of wine, and reduced it down for another 40 minutes.  By that time, I was very pleased with the ultimate flavor and consistency.

Pineapple and Pear Mostarda
la mostarda di ananas e pera
From La Cucina Italiana, with some minor changes
Makes 3 1/2 cups


3 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 large Bosc pears (about 1 1/4 pounds total), peeled, cored and cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons dry mustard
5 tablespoons dry white wine


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, combine 1 1/4 cups sugar, 1 cup cold water and lemon juice; bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is clear and slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

Add pear, reduce mixture to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Return mixture to a simmer and cook until pear slices are tender yet still hold their shape, about 10 minutes more.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl; drain pear, reserving syrup. Transfer pear slices to prepared baking sheet and cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

In a second large saucepan, combine remaining 2 cups sugar and 1 1/2 cups cold water; bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is clear and slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add pineapple, reduce mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and let rest for 5 minutes. Return mixture to a simmer and cook until pineapple is semi-translucent, about 10 minutes more.

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a second large bowl; drain pineapple, reserving syrup. Transfer pineapple to prepared baking sheet and cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together 3⁄4 cup of each of the reserved syrups (to make 1 1/2 cups combined syrup); discard any remaining syrup.

In a small saucepan, whisk together mustard and wine. Set over medium-high heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add mustard mixture to reserved syrup mixture and whisk well to combine.

Gently stir together fruits; transfer to a 4-cup heatproof glass jar with a lid. Pour syrup over fruit, seal jar, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 10 days.

Again, I found the recipe was a little sweet and had too much liquid.  I recommend adding some additional mustard powder to taste, and a little more wine, and then reducing it down for an additional 30-40 minutes.

I served our Mostarda with roast pork tenderloin, which I smeared with mixture of coarse mustard, olive oil, garlic, thyme and rosemary, pan-seared, and roasted in a 425 degree F oven to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. I then deglazed the roasting pan with a splash of white wine and touch of cream, added the mostarda, and cooked over over low until warmed through.  There are actually several variations of Mostarda, and I am now inspired to try the most famous, mostarda di Cremona.

Roast Pork Tenderloin with Mostarda, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, and steamed broccoli

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cherry and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have visited my Beanie Weenie post, and clicked on the link, to help me win the Camp BlogAway Gimme a Private Room contest!  The contest continues until April 11, so please check out my post and read about Camp BlogAway if you haven't done so already.  I'm looking forward to learning some new tips and tricks in furtherance of my efforts and desire to make There's a Newf in My Soup! one of your favorite blogs to visit.

Spring has sprung!  These cookies were inspired by a variety of sources, including our rosemary bush covered with purple flowers and an overabundance of lemons on Jim & Melinda's lemon tree.  I've seen shortbread cookies incorporating lemon and thyme, strawberries and thyme, and lavender, so I wondered how a combination of dried cherries, fresh rosemary, and lemon zest would taste. Let's just say I've found it hard to resist the crumbly shortbread, chewy cherries, zing of lemon, and a slight hint of rosemary on the finish.

Cherry and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Pecan Shortbread, Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

3/4 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of two lemons
1 Tbsp. minced, fresh rosemary
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup Luxardo Maraschino cherry liqueur

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the cherries in a small, microwave-safe bowl, pour the Maraschino liqueur over the top, and stir to coat the cherries.  Microwave on high for 30 seconds and let cool.  Drain,  coarsely chop cherries, and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the lemon zest and rosemary and mix until combined.  Sift together the flour and salt in a medium bowl, and then slowly add to the butter/sugar mixture while mixing on low speed.  Continue mixing on low until the dough comes together.  Add the chopped cherries and gently mix until distributed evenly.

Dump the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, shape into a disk, and wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and cut into 2-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter.  Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve.

I plant rosemary all over the garden, so pleasant is it to
know that at every few steps one may draw the kindly
branchlets through one's hand, and have the enjoyment of
their incomparable incense; and I grow it against walls, so
that the sun may draw out its inexhaustible sweetness
to greet me as I pass ....
- Gertrude Jekyll

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sparkling Shiraz and Blood Orange Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

This layered dessert is composed of Pâte sablée (the richest of the French short pastry crusts, used to make sweet flans and tarts), orange marmalade; stabilized whipped cream, and fresh orange segments soaked in orange caramel sauce. The dessert is layered upside down and then unmolded just before serving so that the bottom layer of orange segments becomes the top layer.  Additional orange caramel sauce is then drizzled over the top.

As with all Daring Bakers' challenges, we strive to produce our own creative interpretation of the challenge recipe with different presentation and flavor variations.  The only rules for this challenge were to prepare all of the components from scratch and use citrus.
First, I looked up Tian, hoping to find some inspirational recipes and photos.  Instead, this is what I found:

- Tian (Chinese: 天; pinyin: tiān; Wade-Giles: t'ien; literally "Sky or heaven, heavens; god, gods") is one of the oldest Chinese terms for the cosmos and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion...Nope, don't think that refers to a French dessert...

- An oval cooking-pot, traditionally used in Provence...Well, at least I'm in the right country...

- Describes a dish created in layers...Getting warmer...

- A French word describing a shallow, earthenware casserole, as well as the food that it contains. A tian can be of any various dishes, but originally referred to a Provenal dish of gratinéed mixed vegetables...A bit warmer, but we are supposed to be making a dessert...

- Well known in some cultures as a prepared dish with layered ingredients, the tian can be thought of as a casserole with a specific arrangement of components. From this perspective, a tian can be a hot or a cold dish. Tians also can be composed of layers of edibles that are baked or cooked in some manner. For example, a dessert tian could be constructed with of successive layers of cake, fudge, whipped cream, and some sort of topping, such as chocolate slivers or shaved almonds...Ok, so our Challenge Tian is to be constructed with successive layers of pastry, marmalade, whipped cream, and citrus segments marinated in orange caramel sauce!  Got it!

Quite frankly, the photo of the Orange Tian provided with the challenge recipe was not very inspiring; it appeared to be plain-looking pastry disk, topped with whipped cream and orange segments.  In retrospect, it was actually very inspiring in the sense that it inspired me, and hundreds of other Daring Bakers, to create something fabulous and unique while staying within the challenge guidelines.  Now, when you Google Tian, you'll have a beautiful selection of photos and recipes to inspire you!  Kudos to Jennifer for choosing such a unique challenge!

Sparking Shiraz and Blood Orange Tian

Step One:  Blood Orange Segments

For this step you will need 8 blood oranges.  Prepare the orange segments by cutting the oranges into segments over a shallow bowl, making sure to reserve the juice.  Add the segments to the bowl with the juice.

Step Two:  Orange Caramel

Granulated sugar 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
Orange juice 1.5 cups + 2 tablespoons; 14 oz; 400 grams (I used juice from Naval Oranges for this part)

Place the sugar in a pan on medium heat and begin heating it.  Once the sugar starts to bubble and foam, slowly add the orange juice. As soon as the mixture starts boiling, remove from the heat and pour half of the mixture over the orange segments.

Reserve the other half of the caramel mixture in a small bowl — you will use this later to spoon over the finished dessert. When the dessert is assembled and setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

Step Three: Blood Orange Marmalade

1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons (3.5 oz; 100 grams) freshly pressed blood orange juice
2 blood oranges used to make orange slices
Cold water to cook the orange slices
5 grams Pectin
Granulated sugar (use use the same weight as the weight of orange slices once they are cooked)

Finely slice the oranges. Place the orange slices in a medium-sized pot filled with cold water. Simmer for about 10 minutes, discard the water, re-fill with cold water, and blanch the orange slicess for another 10 minutes.

Blanch the orange slices 3 times. This process removes the bitterness from the orange peel, so it is essential to use a new batch of cold water every time when you blanch the slices.  Once blanched 3 times, drain the slices and let them cool.  Once they are cool enough to handle, finely mince them (using a knife or a food processor).  Weigh the slices and use the same amount of granulated sugar.  If you don’t have a scale, you can place the slices in a cup measurer and use the same amount of sugar.

In a pot over medium heat, add the minced orange slices, the sugar you just weighed, the orange juice and the pectin. Cook until the mixture reaches a jam consistency (10-15 minutes).

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

Juicing the oranges

Blanching the orange slices

Blood Orange Marmalade

Step Four:  Pate Sablee

2 medium-sized egg yolks at room temperature
Granulated sugar 6 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon; 2.8 oz; 80 grams
Vanilla extract ½ teaspoon
Unsalted butter ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons; 3.5 oz; 100 grams ice cold, cubed
Salt 1/3 teaspoon; 2 grams
All-purpose flour 1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons; 7 oz; 200 grams
Baking powder 1 teaspoon ; 4 grams

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.

In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.

Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water (I used a tablespoon of Grand Marnier in my version) and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

You will need to decide what size dessert you are making in order to determine the size of your cut pastry before cooking.  I decided to use my four 4-inch springform pans and I ended up having a little bit of pastry left over to make a mini dessert in a ramekin.

Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.

Cut out circles of dough in the appropriate size and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

Before cooking

I smoothed the edges with a zester to make sure the pastry rounds would fit snuggly just inside the springform pans

Step Five:  Sparking Shiraz Layer

This was my twist on the recipe, with a little inspiration from Thomas Keller's Strawberry & Champagne Terrine (The French Laundry Cookbook).  We had a wonderful Sparking Shiraz at our Valentine's Aphrodisiac Party, which is the same vibrant color as my blood oranges.  I wanted to experiment by adding another layer next to the layer of orange segments.  Keller's champagne layer in his terrine contains gelatine and I envisioned it softly molding around the orange segments, adding a little more height and flavor to the finished Tians.  It worked beautifully and really enhanced the textures and flavors!

1 1/4 cups Sparking Shiraz
One envelope of powdered gelatin (about 1/4 ounce or 2 1/4 to 2/12 teaspoons)
3 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar

Boil the Shiraz in a small saucepan for about a minute to remove the alcohol.  Measure out one cup of the Shiraz and add it to a bowl containing the gelatin powder.  Whisk the Shiraz and gelatin until combined and then whisk in the sugar until dissolved.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.

Step Six:  Whipped Cream

Heavy whipping cream 1 cup; 7 oz; 200 grams
3 tablespoons of hot water
1 teaspoon Gelatin
1 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar
Blood Orange Marmalade (see recipe above) 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, add the gelatin and hot water, stirring well until the gelatin dissolves. Let the gelatin cool to room temperature while you make the whipped cream. Combine the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. Whip the cream using a hand mixer on low speed until the cream starts to thicken for about one minute. Add the confectioner sugar. Increase the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until the beaters leave visible (but not lasting) trails in the cream, then add the cooled gelatin slowly while beating continuously. Continue whipping until the cream is light and fluffy and forms soft peaks. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and fold in the orange marmalade.

Step Seven:  Assembling the Tians

Drain the orange segments on a kitchen towel.

Have the marmalade, whipped cream, champagne mixture, and baked circles of dough ready to use.

Line the springform pans with plastic wrap (I did this so the Champagne would not leak out and to make unmolding easier).

Drain the orange segments and arrange decoratively on the bottom of each springform pan.  Make sure the segments all touch each other and there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty,  as they will end up being the top of the dessert.

Once you have neatly arranged one layer of orange segments at the bottom of each pan, add about 1/4 cup of the Champagne mixture.  Refrigerate until set, about 20 minutes.

Next, add the layer of whipped cream and gently spread it so that it fills the springform pan in an even layer. Leave about 1/4 inch at the top so there is room for dough circle.

Using a butter knife or small spoon, spread a small even layer of orange marmalade on each circle of dough.

Carefully place a circle of dough over each ring (the side of dough covered in marmalade should be the side touching the whipping cream). Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.

This was my mini Tian in a ramekin

Place the desserts to set in the freezer to set for 10 minutes.

While the dessert is setting in the freezer, heat the kept caramel sauce in a small saucepan over low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon (about 10 minutes). You can then spoon it over the orange tians.

Gently release the springform pan and place your serving plate on top of the pan (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the pan and plastic wrap.  Add some orange caramel sauce and serve immediately.

Four-inch Tian

Baby Tian

This dessert does take quite a bit of time to prepare, but it is well worth the effort, especially with my special Champagne layer!

For the complete, original Challenge recipe and preparation instructions, please visit The Daring Kitchen Recipe Archives.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing this recipe with us.  It truly exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds!

Fellow Daring Bakers, bloggers, and foodies...I have one small request before you go!  I need you to help me win an upgrade to a private room and real bed (instead of a bunk bed) when I attend Camp BlogAway in May.  You can read all about this little contest here, and about Camp BlogAway, here.  Thank you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Beanie Weenies & Gimme a Private Room and Bed at Camp BlogAway Contest

You may have noticed the See Me@CampBlogAway badge on my sidebar, announcing that I am sending myself off to food blogging camp.  It was really a no-brainer for me, registering early for a long, three-day weekend in the mountains of Southern California, jam-packed with classes and workshops about various blogging topics. Although I've come a long way since launching There's a Newf in My Soup last June, I have so much more to learn. I'm confident this conference will provide me with some valuable tools of the trade designed to further develop and sharpen my blogging skills, as well as an opportunity to mingle with the panel of experts, form friendships, and partake in some good, old-fashioned summer camp activities.  There's still limited space left for this Premier Bootcamp for Food & Recipe Bloggers, scheduled for May 14-16, and I encourage you to check out the details, here.

I caution you, however, as I understand our accommodations are a bit on the "rustic" side.  We aren't sleeping on the ground, in tents, but we may as well be.  Envision multiple bunk beds per bunkroom, with multiple bunkrooms per cabin.  We must provide our own linens and towels, and are discouraged from fussing over hair and make-up.  I don't know about those who are flying in for the conference, with baggage restrictions and all, but my little Z's trunk will be stuffed to the brim with all of the comforts of home - feather bed, Italian sheets, down pillows, faux fur throw, and my Hotel Del bathrobe!  I may be sleeping in a bunk bed, but my bunk bed will be properly and cozily adorned. 

As far as hair and make-up, I'm fine with throwing on a baseball or cowboy hat to disguise the bad hair days, and I'm also willing to limit my make-up to a flick of the mascara wand and a smidgen of lipstick..just in case a rugged cowboy in tight jeans happens to ride across my hiking trail.

Ok, here's the scoop, and this is where I NEED your support.  Registered Camp BlogAway attendees were recently challenged to a little contest.  Winners of this contest receive a PRIVATE room, with a SOLO, full-sized bed.  The rules of the GIMME A PRIVATE ROOM & BED competition require us to publish a blog post, showcasing our take on going to camp at this stage of our life, referencing Camp BlogAway in the post, and linking to Camp BlogAway's website, here.  If you haven't clicked on the numerous links provided thus far, please do so now, here.  Thank you!

Judging is based on two elements: 1) Creativity/Entertainment value of the post, and 2) Number of hits to the Camp BlogAway website, here, referred from the attendee's blog.  Patti Londre, the force behind Camp BlogAway, and her husband, Larry, are marketing pros, can you tell?  Larry will be judging the posts. Hi Larry! What a great idea to get the word out to as many foodies and food bloggers as possible and fill up those sought-after bunk beds, one of which will be mine because I will be snuggled in a PRIVATE room, with a SOLO, full-sized bed!

I have a few faded memories of my childhood, Girl Scout camping experiences.  When I think of down and dirty camping in the woods, sleeping in sleeping bags on the ground, and cooking over a campfire, I think of a pot of beans.  Even as an adult, I often find myself craving foods I enjoyed while growing up.  So, in honor of those memories, and Camp BlogAway, my cowboy and I recreated a childhood favorite to share in this special GIMME A PRIVATE ROOM & BED post:  Beanie Weenies!  I plated these special Beanie Weenies with beautiful, antique Graniteware pieces from my friend Julie's collection... 

Gourmet Beanie Weenies
Double Batch, serves 6-8


2 14-oz. packages Lit'l Smokies
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chile powder
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1/4 cup stout
2 28-oz. cans Bush's Best Bold & Spicy Baked Beans (these are already flavored with cilantro, cumin, brown sugar and bacon)
5 oz. baby Spinach


In a large saute pan, brown Lit'l Smokies over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add olive oil and saute shallot for a minute or two.  Add cumin and chile powder and saute for another 30 seconds.  Add vinegar and stout, then add beans.  Bring to a simmer and return Lit'l Smokies to the pan.  Continue simmering for another 10 minutes.  Just before serving, add spinach and gently incorporate until wilted.


Ok, back to the contest at hand...

My idea of going to "camp" at this stage of my life has taken on new meaning since discovering "camping" at two luxurious guest ranches, The Home Ranch in Clarke, Colorado, and Triple Creek Ranch, in Darby, Montana.  According to Merriam-Webster, one definition of camp is "a place usually in the country for recreation or instruction often during the summer."  Ha! These ranches technically qualify as "camps" in my book, the kind of "camping" vacation I can do over and over, and the kind of "camping" I deserve at this stage in my life!  These camps are all about luxury, food and wine, and connecting with nature, all while savoring the finer things in life!

The Home Ranch offers fly-fishing recreation and instruction, and the chef will even cook your catch of the day for dinner! My private fly-fishing instructor provided exceptional instruction, enabling me to land this nice rainbow trout.

Triple Creek Ranch offers wine weekends, wine-pairing dinners, and artist and photography workshops.  Here I am enjoying a little after-dinner wine tasting recreation...

And, most importantly, here I am savoring a bit more wine tasting recreation before retiring in a plush, king-size bed...No bunk beds at this place!


So, I beg of you, don't send me off to Camp BlogAway, destined for a bunk bed with a cardboard mattress, in a bunkroom full of bunkmates!  Besides, what if I decide to bring one of the Newfs along for the ride up the mountain with me?  Dooley will definitely require that private room and larger bed!

All kidding aside, I'm sure the accommodations at Camp BlogAway will be just fine and I look forward to a memorable weekend of learning and slumbering amongst the gals!  Besides, there are hot tubs, massages, AND we can bring our own wine, so I don't anticipate a problem in relaxing enough to fall asleep ;-) 

Thank you for indulging me!  See you at Camp BlogAway!  Please click here!

What is your ultimate "camp" destination at this stage in your life?  What food comes to mind when you think of camping?  

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Smoked Oysters Rockefeller Pasta aka Smoked Oyster Pastafeller

Last night, I felt like one of the chefs on Chopped, the show hosted by Ted Allen.  The series challenges four up-and-coming chefs to turn a selection of everyday ingredients into an extraordinary three-course meal. After each course, one of the chefs gets "chopped" until the last man or woman left standing claims victory.

I had a toasted piece of Irish Soda Bread for breakfast, and then went shopping for the afternoon with my mom.  I tried to get her to go to lunch with me, at El Agave for Tacos al Pastor, or to Island Prime's C Level, for Chef Scott's Healthy Skirts on Fire salad.  She declined, and I came home starving.  I started scrounging around to see what I could come up with and that's when I transformed myself into a Chopped contestant presented with a basket of three ingredients:  3.75 oz. can of Geisha Smoked Oysters, small bag of Baby Spinach, and a bottle of Biokult Gruner Veltliner, an organic Austrian white wine.  I'm not sure how the wine ended up in our wine rack, but someone must have brought it over for our Valentine's Aphrodisiac Party.

Moving right along, I was famished, feeling a little weak in the knees, and needed something pronto!  The Chopped chefs can pull some basics from the pantry, to add to the three ingredients they received, in order to create their final dishes.  Let's see, oysters, spinach and wine...I took a quick look at my Flavor Bible (love this new book) to see what other things I might have in the pantry and fridge that would complement the oysters.  The book lists the most compatible ingredients in BOLD CAPS, followed by the next most compatible ingredients in bold.  Under oysters, I saw: garlic; LEMON, juice, zest; butter; OIL, olive oil; parsley, flat leafspinach, and WINE, dry white!  Then it came to me...Oysters Rockefeller, in a pasta version.  With a little help from Tyler Florence's Oysters Rockefeller recipe, I created this dish.

Smoked Oysters Pastafeller
Serves 2

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup bread crumbs (I used a mixture of regular and Panko)
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
A few dashes of Chipotle Tabasco
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 3.5 oz. can Smoked Oysters, roughly chopped
8 oz. dry spaghetti or linguine pasta
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Ingredients from my Chopped basket, and a few others from the pantry...

Start by boiling your pasta water and cook your pasta according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a skillet and saute the garlic for 2 minutes to infuse the butter.

Place the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl and add half the garlic butter. Mix in the olive oil, grated Parmesan and chopped parsley, set aside.

To the remaining garlic butter in the skillet, add spinach, cook for 3 minutes until the spinach wilts. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Season with salt and pepper, add a dash or two of Chipotle Tabasco, and the oysters. Allow the mixture to cook down for a few minutes.

Drain the pasta and toss it with a little more olive oil and the spinach-oyster mixture. Divide the pasta into shallow, oven-proof bowls, sprinkle the top with the bread crumb mixture, and place under the broiler for a minute, or until the bread crumbs are golden brown. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and serve.

Sauteed garlic and butter

Bread crumb mixture

Sauteed spinach

Smoked Oysters

Sauteed Spinach and Oysters

Voila, Smoked Oysters Pastafeller!

After inhaling this, I called my mom...

Phone ringing
Mom:  Hello
Me:  Oh my God, I just created the most fabulous pasta dish
Mom:  What did you create?
Me:  I made an Oysters Rockefeller Pasta, with smoked oysters, spinach, garlic, butter, blah, blah, blah, and it was so amazing and delicious!
Mom:  Maybe you were just really hungry (i.e., maybe it wasn't as good as you think it was because anything tastes good when you're starving)

At that point, our neighbor Brad was walking by and I called him inside...

Me:  Brad, I just made the most incredible pasta!
Brad:  Really, what did you make?
Me:  (holding up the bowl and showing it to him)  Do you like Oysters Rockefeller?
Brad:  Are you kidding!? (grabbing the bowl from me and taking a big bite)
Me:  So, what do you think?
Brad:  Wow, that's amazing!

I'll take that as a victory and declare myself the new Chopped champion!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

O Come Ye Back to Ireland...for Irish Soda Bread

I hope everyone enjoyed St. Paddy's Day!

St. Patrick's Day brings back fond memories of my equestrian vacation in Ireland, too many years ago...a refurbished hunting lodge in a small town, incredible horses, charming Irish lads, misty mornings, emerald green pastures, a few exhilarating moments jumping rock walls and sinking in the bog, fox hunts, quaint thatched roof cottages, too many pubs and beer, and traditional Irish breakfasts with tea, eggs, sausage and soda bread.

Unfortunately, my Irish celebration wasn't the same this year without John in town.  We missed hosting our annual St. Patrick's Day Party, but John did whip up some fantastic Bangers & Mash for the two of us on Saturday.

Our favorite St. Patrick's Day party dishes include Smoked Salmon Cheesecake with Green Onion Coulis, Irish Stew, Bangers & Mash, Corned Beef & Cabbage, Irish Soda Bread, and Chocolate Stout Cake.

I left work a little early this afternoon, came home, baked a loaf of Irish Soda Bread, and then joined friends for Corned Beef & Cabbage at their house.  It was a lovely, casual evening and suppressed any temptations to join the crowd at McP's Irish Pub, one of the local hangs.  My bread turned out moist and flavorful, especially slathered with Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter!

Irish Soda Bread
Inspired by Barefoot Contessa at Home Irish Soda Bread and Marilyn O'Reilly's Irish Soda Bread


4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup raisins (macerated in 1/2 cup dark rum or Irish Whiskey and then drained)
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. 

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Add the caraway seeds and raisins and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.

Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. 

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a  hollow sound.  Cool on a baking rack. 

Serve warm or at room temperature, with Irish butter!

It doesn't have to be St. Patrick's Day to enjoy this bread.  It takes only about 10 minutes to combine all the ingredients and can be baked and on your table in an hour.  You can omit the caraway seeds and/or substitute currants for the raisins.  

In this loaf, I used golden raisins and omitted the caraway seeds.  It was wonderful the next day, toasted with more Irish butter.  I had some for breakfast, and lunch, and a snack...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Braised Veal Shank with Chanterelle, Fava and Truffle Risotto

This has happened to me twice now, since joining The Daring Kitchen last summer.  I'm a proud member of both communities, The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks, and eagerly count down the days to the announcement of the respective monthly challenges. Last December, the day after we completed and delivered our Gingerbread City Wizard of Oz to The Grand Del Mar for judging, The Daring Bakers announced the December 2009 Gingerbread House Challenge.

This year, within a week of posting my Porcini Mushroom Risotto, the Daring Cooks announced the March 2010 Risotto Challenge.  Not to worry, I'm not complaining.  Risotto is so delicious and versatile, we make it quite often. This month's challenge simply provided me with incentive to try a new version.

I pondered ingredients and flavor combinations for a few weeks, and ultimately obtained my risotto inspiration from three sources:  The Farmers' Market, one of our fabulous meat markets, and Il Fornaio.

First, we took a leisurely Saturday morning stroll around our local Little Italy Farmers' Market, and came home with a beautiful, fresh Chanterelle Mushroom and a bag full of Fava Beans...

Here's a Guide to Shelling Fresh Fava Beans - it is a bit labor intensive, but well worth the effort.  Two pounds of fresh Favas yield about one cup of fully shelled beans.  

As I was writing this post, John reminded me of Dr. Hannibal Lecter's quote in Silence of the Lambs, "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."  

John collected sea shells and coral during his Navy Deep Sea Diving days and instantly recognized the striking resemblance of our Chanterelle to his Mushroom or Razor Coral.  He found this piece of coral in the waters of Subic Bay, Philippines.

After the Farmers' Market, we took a drive over to Siesel's Old Fashioned Meats for a couple veal shanks...

And third, we pulled out our timely "door prize" from Il Fornaio, a box of Risotto Al Tartufo Nero, carnaroli rice with bits of summer truffle.  Il Fornaio offers a little gift each month when your order off the Regional menu.  I was set to go!

Now, for the official Daring Cooks' blog checking line:

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

Here's my version...

Braised Veal Shank with Chanterelle, Fava and Truffle Risotto
Serves 2

Braised Veal Shank ingredients and preparation:

1 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 veal shanks, tied (ours weighed a little over 1/2 lb. each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery
1 large shallot, minced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
2 bay leaves
1 thyme sprig

Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Heat the oil in a large oven-proof pan.  Season the veal shanks with salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until well browned, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.

Add the butter to the pan, and then add the onion, carrot, celery, shallot and garlic.  Cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the wine and simmer for 4 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Return the veal shanks to the pan and add the bay leaves and thyme.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Cover and bake for 1 hour.  Turn the shanks over, cover and bake for another hour, or until the veal is very tender.  Keep warm while you prepare the risotto.

Risotto ingredients and preparation:

4-5 cups veal stock
(Here is a funny and excellent post on homemade veal stock.  Although we were supposed to make our own stock for this challenge, I didn't.  Sorry, but it just didn't happen this time.   I used this, available in gourmet markets, with nice tasting results.  If I had the room in my freezer to store containers of homemade stock, which I don't, or if I was serving this risotto for a dinner party, which I wasn't, I would buy 10 lbs. of veal bones and prepare homemade stock)
8 oz. fresh Chanterelle mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced
1 cup Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup fresh, fully shelled fava beans
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
Optional: Gremolata

Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan and keep warm over very low heat.

Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the shallots and saute until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring, until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes (the rice should absorb 4-5 cups of broth). Add the fava beans during the last few minutes.  Off the heat, add diced butter and stir to incorporate.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide risotto between two plates, and place a braised veal shank in the center of each plate and garnish with gremolata.

For the Daring Cooks' Comfort Food from the Heart Risotto recipes, please visit The Daring Kitchen Recipe Archive, here.  

Thank you, Eleanor and Jess, for hosting this challenge!

Be sure to visit your local Farmers' market and support your local farmers!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Roasted Salmon and Fingerling Potatoes, served over Smashed Broccoli

My last post was about the beautiful merlot-colored walnuts we discovered at the Little Italy Farmers' Market, and used in our Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi with Gorgonzola.

We also brought home this fresh broccoli from the Farmers' Market.  I have noticed a few posts lately on ways to jazz up Brussels sprouts, so I decided to jazz up our broccoli and try a recipe for Smashed Broccoli and Garlic I found in one of my Tyler Florence cookbooks.  We both love broccoli, steamed or roasted, but I'm thrilled to have found this version.  It's still healthy, but the addition of red pepper flakes, garlic, yogurt and chicken broth transforms the florets into a flavorful, comforting, and fluffy bed for roast chicken or salmon.

Smashed Broccoli and Garlic
From Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 bunch broccoli, about 1 pound, including stems, coarsely chopped
1 cup Chicken Stock
1/4 cup plain yogurt

Heat the olive oil in a medium pot; add the red pepper flakes and garlic. Throw in the broccoli and toss to coat in the garlic and oil. Pour in the chicken stock, cover, and let the broccoli steam for 10 minutes. When it is quite soft, pulse the broccoli a few times in a food processor. The broccoli should be partly smooth and partly chunky. Add the yogurt, and pulse a few more times.  Season with salt and pepper.

I certainly don't blog about everything we eat, and I wasn't even planning on posting the broccoli, until I tasted it. When everything else came together so nicely for our weeknight dinner for two, you're now going to hear about it all!

Tyler suggests serving the Smashed Broccoli with his Herb and Lemon Roasted Chicken, but I found a gorgeous salmon fillet at Boney's Bayside Market, the little gourmet market in Coronado.  There was a flier on the counter about this sustainable Cypress Island American Salmon, raised in the San Juan Islands of Washington.  I think it was only about $6.00/lb.

I rubbed the salmon with our homemade Salmon Sugar Spice Rub, kept in the spice cupboard for such occasions, seared the fillet in a little oil, and then put it in the oven alongside the potatoes that were already roasting and giving off a heavenly aroma of garlic and herbs.  I roasted the salmon at 425F, for 7-10 minutes, until the internal temperature read 135F.

The roasted fingerling potatoes, also courtesy of Tyler Florence, allowed us to use fresh herbs from our  garden and complemented the salmon and broccoli perfectly.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Fresh Herbs and Garlic
From Tyler's Ultimate

2 pints fingerling potatoes
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 to 3 sprigs fresh sage
3 sprigs fresh thyme
6 cloves garlic, left unpeeled
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus for sheet pan
Salt and pepper
(I reduced all of the above quantities by half, for the two of us)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and place a baking sheet inside to heat.
Add potatoes, rosemary, sage, thyme, and garlic to a medium bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Remove sheet pan from oven, lightly coat with olive oil, and pour potatoes onto pan. Place potatoes in oven and reduce heat to 425 degrees F. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until crispy on outside and tender on inside.

If you're looking for an effortless, elegant, St. Patrick's Day dinner, this is my recommendation!  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gnocchi Verdi al Gorgonzola

Inspired by Il Fornaio's Festa Regionale Lombardia menu, offered through March 14, and some very special walnuts we found at the Little Italy Farmers Market, John suggested making homemade gnocchi for our rainy weekend culinary entertainment.  John has made gnocchi a couple of times, and favors the Ricotta-Spinach Dumplings Baked in a Creamy Porcini Mushroom Sauce, from our Il Fornaio Pasta Book.  My man loves his potatoes and fattening cream sauces with pasta!

We followed Il Fornaio's recipe for the spinach ricotta gnocchi, and then created our own gorgonzola cream sauce with toasted red walnuts.  To read more about these beautiful red walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch, visit The Vegetarian Guy.

Gnocchi Verdi al Gorgonzola
Serves 4


1/4 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, mashed
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
2 1/2 cups ricotta
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
5 oz. gorgonzola cheese
1 cup  whipping cream

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and cook one minute.  Add the spinach and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a colander and let cool.  Squeeze the spinach between your hands to eliminate any excess liquid.  Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and puree.

Combine the ricotta, parmigiano, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl.

 Add the egg and mix well.

Add the spinach and flour and mix, using your hands.

On a flat, four-dusted work surface, roll the dough into a cylinder 3 1/2 inches in diameter and 5 inches long.  Cut into five 1-inch-thick slices.

Working with one batch at a time, set a slice on its edge and press it down to flatten it.  Sprinkle with flour.  Roll the dough with the palms of your hands in a forward motion, similar to moving a rolling pin, until you have formed a cylinder 13-15 inches long and 3/4 inch wide in diameter.

Cut each length on the diagonal into 1/4 inch thick slices. Press each piece against the tines on the back of a fork while gently rolling it down. Transfer to a flour-dusted plate with a spatula.

Bring 5 quarts of water, with 5 teaspoons salt, to a boil in a large stockpot over high heat. Add the gnocchi and cook until they rise to the top, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a colander to drain.

To make the sauce:  Melt the butter in a medium saute pan.  Saute the shallots and walnuts for about 2 minutes. Add the cream and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the gorgonzola and season with salt and pepper. Cook, over low heat, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.

Combine the gnocchi and cream sauce and toss to coat lightly and evenly. When plating, garnish with a few more toasted walnut pieces.

Suggested Wine Pairing from What to Drink with What You Eat: Chardonnay, especially a lighter-bodied Italian, Pinot Grigio/Pinos Gris, or Chianti