Category Archives: Holiday Recipes

Fresh from the Farm Market: Herbed Potato Salad + Strawberry Watermelon Salad

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Summertime always remind me of home – when the sun is shining, a warm breeze is in the air, locusts are humming and all the flowers, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are in full bloom. There’s a small local farmer’s market up in Webster, NY not far from where I grew up that I used to visit with my Mom as a kid. We would buy fresh apple cider and donuts, pumpkins for Halloween and fresh corn and melons for our summer picnics. This year I went home to visit for Fourth of July weekend, and my Mom and I visited once again to buy some fresh fruit and veggies for our holiday BBQ feast.

Herman's Farm Market & Cider Mill
Herman’s Farm Market & Cider Mill

I was craving some juicy watermelon and strawberries and went on a mission. There’s nothing like that first bite of sweet, cool, bright pink flesh of melon and ruby red berries in the summertime.

Fresh Watermelons
Fresh Watermelons

This Watermelon and Strawberry Salad is a simple combination of fresh watermelon, strawberries and a few blueberries mixed in with a little bit of lemon juice, sugar and water to make a simple refreshing syrup to macerate the fruit. This is how we traditionally make the fruit salad but you can also toss the fruit in a citrus infused balsamic vinegar for a tangy contrast with the sweet fruit – a good friend of mine made this salad and used Tavern on the Green Citrus which has a blend of orange, tangerine and lime essence and is just as delicious!

Ripe Juicy Strawberries
Ripe Juicy Strawberries

I found a recipe for a French Potato Salad made with salt potatoes and fresh herbs, a lightened up version from the heavier mayonnaise-laden salads from our family picnics of the past.

Salt Potatoes
Salt Potatoes

It calls for salt (or new) potatoes (red or yellow), shallots, parsley and thyme tossed in an oil, vinegar and Dijon mustard base making it light and tangy.

Italian Parsley
Italian Parsley

Fresh parsley adds some green…and the sweet shallots mixed with thyme, dill and onions gives it nice fresh flavor. I added some dried dill (you could also use fresh) and a few chopped green onions for an extra dash of flavor – délicieux!

Shallots
Shallots

Fresh market grown. Simple, fast and delicious. And most of all homemade with love, and my Mom – just like the good old days.

herbed potato salad

strawberry watermelon salad

Fresh from the Farm Market: Herbed Potato Salad + Strawberry Watermelon Salad

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • Herbed Potato Salad:
  • 2 lbs red or yellow salt potatoes, halved
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 c olive oil (light yellow, not extra virgin)
  • 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Champagne vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tbsp dried or fresh dill
  • 1/4 small Vidalia onion, chopped fine
  • 1-2 green onions, sliced
  • -----
  • Strawberry-Watermelon Salad:
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 c water
  • 1/4 watermelon, cut into cubes
  • 3 c strawberries, halved
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed for juice
  • garnish: fresh mint leaves (torn into small pieces) or microgreens

Instructions

  1. Herbed Potato Salad:
  2. Place potatoes in a large pot of cold salted water covering potatoes by about an inch. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.
  3. While potatoes are cooking, whisk together oil, mustard, vinegar, shallot, parsley, thyme and dill in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add cooked potatoes and chopped onion and 1/2 of the green onions to the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with additional green onions and parsley and serve at room temperature.
  4. -----------
  5. Strawberry Watermelon Salad:
  6. To make the simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan, let simmer for about 5 minutes and cool.
  7. Place watermelon, strawberries and blueberries in a large bowl and add the syrup, mixing well. Add a dash of lemon juice and garnish with mint or microgreens.

Notes

Herbed Potato Salad recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

http://www.theartfulgourmet.com/2011/07/06/fresh-from-the-farm-market-herbed-potato-salad-strawberry-watermelon-salad/

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In the Mood For Love

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Recipes To Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day


“Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations)”.

We’ve all heard that there are certain foods that have aphrodisiac powers, but which ones and what effect do they have on romance? There are several foods that increase passion and the mood for love – almonds, arugula, asparagus, avocado, bananas, basil, chilies, chocolate, coffee, figs, garlic, ginger, honey, nutmeg, oysters, pinenuts, raspberries, strawberries, black truffles, vanilla and wine, just to name a few.

Truffles are said to stimulate and sensitize the skin for touch. Vanilla’s scent and flavor is known to increase lust. Chilies increase blood flow and sex drive. The chemicals in chocolate trigger neurochemicals in the brain that increases passion. Red wine relaxes and stimulates the senses.

For Valentine’s Day, I rounded up a few recipes featuring some of these love-ly passion-inspiring foods, guaranteed to spice up your night and make it one to remember!

Broiled Oysters with Fresh Herbs, Garlic and Cheese

Herbed Oysters

Ingredients:

24 fresh oysters
¾ cup of breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

 Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

 Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side. Pop open a bottle of your best bubbly and indulge with your honey.

Recipe adapted from www.oysterrecipes.org

Milk Soup with Truffles au Gratin

Truffle Gratin

Ingredients:

2 c. of chicken juice (gravy)
2 + 2/3 c. of milk cream
1 oz. of fresh truffle
2 lbs. of fresh bread
2/3 c. of truffle juice
1/3 c. of milk
2/3 c. of egg whites
Salt, white pepper

Preparation:

Reduce the chicken juice to half.

Add the milk, milk cream and reduce again.

Add the truffle juice and reduce until you get a nice texture.

Check on seasoning and put aside for the moment.

Preparation of the bread toasts:

Whisk 2/3 c. of cream, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut them into circles (2 inch diameters)

Toast both sides of the bread pieces, dig one side on the piece and pour the wiped cream into it, bake it “au gratin”
under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Recipe originated from French-Truffles.com

Chocolate Chicken

Chocolate Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut up — (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil — (1 to 2)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. anise seed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
2 tsp. hot crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Sesame seeds

Brown chicken in a medium skillet in hot oil. Remove to a large (13x9x2) cake pan or baking dish. Pour oil from skillet and add the stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa with vegetable oil to form a paste. Add cloves, cinnamon, anise seed, and blend. Stir spice mixture into simmering stock and simmer 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
Pour mixture over the chicken parts. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until chicken is tender (around 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds over a bed of rice.

Spicy Scallops with Capellini

Scallop

Ingredients:

1 pound sea scallops, quartered if large
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small dried chipotle chile with seeds, stemmed and chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 pound capellini

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, toss the scallops with the oil, wine, parsley, garlic and chipotle. Season with salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the oil is sizzling and the scallops are firm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the capellini until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the scallops and their juices, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food and Wine magazine.

Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs

Chocolate-Coffee Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

Olive oil or lard
5 lbs beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Preparation:

Rinse short ribs under cold water and pat dry, season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Place a few of the short ribs in the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Brown the short ribs well on all sides until they have a nice seared brown color. Transfer the meat to a plate and continue to cook the rest of the ribs. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cooking.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes. Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.

Return the short ribs to the pot and cover. Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Mix in the chocolate until melted. Season ribs with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, pasta or polenta. Indulge in a nice hearty red such as a Cabernet or Zinfandel or Shiraz which goes great with the chocolate and spicy flavors in this dish.

Recipe adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook

Arugula and Avocado Salad With Shaved Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Arugula Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches arugula, washed and dried ( about 6 cups)
1 avocados, peeled and sliced
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste

Lemon Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 -5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Place arugula in a serving bowl and add dressing to taste. Mix well. Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more dressing over them and season with a pinch of salt. Using a vegetable peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the top.

Top off the salad with some toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch (and spice to your Valentine’s Day!)

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food.com

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Ingredients

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half 
lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Instructions

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately. Prepare to swoon almost immediately.

Recipe originated from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Chocolate Honey Mousse

chocolate mousse

Ingredients

12 oz of dark crispy chocolate
5-6 dessert spoons of pure honey
3 cups of fresh cream

Instructions

Mix together dark chocolate (should be crushed into pieces), 5 dessert spoons honey and ¾ cup of fresh cream. The ingredients
should be mixed over luke warm water. This mixture will need to be stirred constantly, till the dark chocolate stats to melt and combines itself with the honey and cream.

Once all three ingredients have blended into one another, keep it aside for it to cool.

While the chocolate mixture is kept aside to cool, start whipping the remaining cream (2 ¼ cups) but not very firm.

Once the cream is whipped and the chocolate mixture is cool, gradually and slowly fold the cream into it. Blend this mixture well.

Take a special serving dish and carefully pour the whole mixture into it and keep it to set in the refrigerator.

The chocolate honey mousse can also be poured into separate individual bowls as it does make a lavish amount.

If the mousse is poured into one whole serving dish, the chocolate honey mouse might take about 3 to 4 hours for it to set well.

Chocolate honey mousse can be served with creamy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with crushed nuts as a topping.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
¾ cup of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups of fresh raspberries
12 oz of white chocolate, chopped
½ cup of heavy cream, warmed
½ cup of whipped cream, to garnish

Directions:

In a bowl with an electric mixer, blend walnuts, ¾ of the butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and egg until thoroughly combined, and press into an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Freeze the shell for 15 minutes.

While the shell is freezing, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 Bake the shell in middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Allow the shell to cool on a rack.

Remove the side of pan and transfer the shell to a plate.

 Fill shell with 2 ½ cups of raspberries.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and the remaining butter, whisking until smooth.

 Spread the white chocolate mixture over the raspberries, smoothing top and chill, covered, for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish the tart with whipped cream and remaining ½ cup of raspberries.

Serve at room temperature.

Recipe originated from www.raspberryrecipes.net

Read more about Aphrodisiac Foods and History

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Holiday Brunch: Italian Frittata with Red Pepper, Potatoes and Bacon

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red pepper potato frittata

Potato and Pepper Frittata with Cheese and Bacon

So Christmas is over, but the cooking is not! As a tradition, I always make breakfast for the family and this year decided to make a delicious recipe for a Potato and Pepper Frittata from my new Williams-Sonoma cookbook Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty. A Frittata is similar to a French quiche without the crust or a breakfast casserole but cooked in an ovenproof pan on the stove and then finished by broiling in the oven and served directly from the pan.

This recipe calls for eggs, roasted red peppers and onions with Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped Rosemary which is a delicious Italian style Frittata. You can also modify it by adding cooked bacon, ham, shredded cheddar, asparagus and shallots or crumbled feta or goat cheese. I changed it up a bit by adding some shredded cheddar cheese and chives to the eggs and served it with a side of bacon and some Almond Butter Christmas Stollen (a German holiday bread). The possibilities are endless because Frittatas are so versatile and easy to make..it’s a simple and hearty breakfast or brunch you can make anytime of the year and deeeelish!!

Ingredients:

Yukon Gold Potatoes, 2 med or large

Olive Oil, 2 tbsp

Yellow Onion, 1/2 c. chopped

Orange or Red bell pepper

Large eggs, 8

Fresh Rosemary, 1 tsp minced

Kosher Salt, 1/4 tsp

Fresh Ground Pepper

Parmesan Cheese, 3 tbsp

Preparation:

Thinly slice the unpeeled potatoes. In an ovenproof frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the potatoes and turn to coat with the oil. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and stir in the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender and the potatoes are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Place the pepper on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until blackened on all sides about 12 minutes (you can also do this on a gas stove directly over the flame burner if you prefer). Transfer to a work surface and let cool until easy to handle. Leave the broiler on. Peel off the blackened skin, discard the stem, seeds and ribs; and chop the pepper.

Stir the roasted red pepper into the potato mixture into the frying pan. In a bowl, whisk  together the eggs, rosemary and salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the potato mixture and cook over medium heat until the edges are set. Using a heatproof spatula, lift the cooked edges of the frittata and tilt the frying pan to allow the liquid egg on top to flow underneath. Continue cooking, occasionally lifting the frittata and tilt again, until the top is almost set about 4 minutes more.

Sprinkle the top of the frittata with the Parmesan, place under broiler for about 1 minute or until the top is golden brown. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Makes 4-6 servings

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An Intimate Gathering: Holiday Dinner Party Menu

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Since the holidays are rapidly approaching, I’m planning an intimate dinner party with friends featuring some of my favorite recipes to make a delicious, warming and elegant meal. Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce for the entree, Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese as a side, Pear, Arugula and Pancetta as an accompanying winter salad, and rich, decadent Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce

Filet Mignon has always been one of my favorites, and it is one of the most elegant cuts of steak, and served medium rare is juicy, tender, and succulent. Top it off with a Mushroom wine sauce, serve it with a Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut salad with Vinaigrette and a Cheesy Pasta side dish with a kick, and you’ve got an elegant dinner party menu for a small group of friends. I saw this recipe on Giada DeLaurentis’ show Giada at Home, and it caught my eye as the perfect dish for an intimate dinner party with friends around the holidays.

steak with mushroom sauce

Ingredients

Steaks:

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Gravy:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large or 4 small shallots, minced

2 cups (about 5 ounces) assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake and button, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry Marsala wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation:

Steak: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board.

Gravy: In the same skillet used for the steak, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and rosemary. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until half of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cutting across the grain, slice the steak into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and serve alongside the meat.

—————————————————–

Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is a classic comfort food and every year I go on a search for a new recipe and this one caught my eye. (Bon Appetit magazine Dec 2010 issue). This recipe originates from the popular Seattle restaurant, Roaring Fork by Chef Robert McGrath. It’s made with roasted poblano chile peppers which gives it a nice kick and extra texture and flavor to the cheesy goodness. The recipe calls for macaroni and red onion but I decided to substitute penne for the macaroni and shallots for the onion, and added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, extra cheddar cheese and a few slices of crumbled pancetta on top to dress it up a bit. You can also toss the pasta in a cast iron pan and top it off with some buttery panko bread crumbs and throw it in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 350 degrees for a crunchy delicious topping. It makes 6 appetizer or side-dish servings.

green chile mac and cheese

Ingredients:

1 whole fresh poblano chile plus 1/4 c. chopped fresh poblano chiles

1 tbsp corn oil

1/4 c. chopped red bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped red onion (or shallots)

1 garlic clove, minced

4-5 slices of pancetta, diced and cooked

1/2 c. fresh or frozen thawed corn kernels

3/4 c. whipping cream

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 c. fresh cooked macaroni (2/3 c. dried) or penne (or any tubular shaped pasta)

1/2 c. grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Topping: Melted butter and Panko bread crumbs, put entire dish in a cast iron pan, top

with buttered crumbs and bake in oven until topping is crunchy and golden

Preparation:

Char whole chile directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to paper bag, seal. Let stand 15 mins. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chile. Transfer to processor, puree until smooth.

Chop the pancetta and cook until crisp in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove bacon and drain on a small plate with paper towels and reserve some of the bacon drippings and add the oil back in to the pan.

Add 1/4 c. chopped chile, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Saute until soft, about 4 mins. Add corn; stir 1 minute. Add cream and chile puree; bring to boil. Add macaroni and cheese; stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with pancetta crumbles.

—————————————————–

Pear, Arugula and Pancetta Salad

This is one of my favorite winter salads made with peppery arugula, fresh sliced pears, pancetta and a crisp Champagne Vinaigrette. It goes perfect with the steak and pasta and gives a fresh flavor to the meal.

pear and arugula salad

For vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon mild honey

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

For salad:

2 oz thinly sliced pancetta (4 to 5 slices)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 firm-ripe pears

4 cups baby arugula or torn larger arugula (1 1/4 lb)

3 oz ricotta salata, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler

Toasted Walnuts for topping

Make vinaigrette: Whisk together vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Make salad:
 Cook pancetta in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning frequently, until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain (pancetta will crisp as it cools). Tear into bite-size pieces.

Halve pears lengthwise, core, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add pears to dressing along with arugula, cheese, and pancetta, tossing to coat. Top with a handful of toasted walnuts for some crunchy texture.

Read More: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pear-Arugula-and-Pancetta-Salad-235734#ixzz16appSya9

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Chocolate Mousse

I can’t think anything else on the planet that I love more than chocolate. Whip up this delicious ingredient with brandy and cream and you’ve got the perfect French dessert – chocolate mousse. Dark and rich, creamy and decadent – it’s the perfect ending for a special dinner party with friends during the holidays. I found this recipe on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette (she’s one of my favorite Bon Appetit food writers, ever!). This recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, 2006.

chocolate mousse

Ingredients:

8 oz. Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate, 60% cacao, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

5 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. brandy

2 large eggs, separated

1 Tbsp. sugar, divided

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cold heavy cream

For serving:

Very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings

Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, water, and whiskey in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of gently simmering water, and stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.

In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, and salt. Whisk until the mixture lightens to a pale yellow color and thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until just warmer than room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Detach the whisk and bowl from the mixer, and whisk the last few strokes by hand, making sure to scrape up any unbeaten whites from the bottom of the bowl. Using the whisk, stir about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, to lighten it. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.

In the now-empty mixer bowl, whip the heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mousse until no white streaks remain. Spoon into 6 to 8 individual serving dishes – I like to use teacups – or, if you’re feeling casual, mound it up in a single serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For best texture, let the mousse sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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A Few of My Favorite Thanksgiving Sides

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and there’s no guessing why – it’s all about visiting friends and family, being thankful for the wonderful things in our lives and of course, it’s all about the food.

Turkey and Dressing is the normal star of the table, but I love to experiment with the side dishes to mix it up and spice up the menu each year. Here’s a couple of recipes I plan on making this year (one tried and true, one a new experiment!)..would love to hear from all of you what your favorite side dishes are and what you’ll be making this year that’s a change from just mashed potatoes and green bean casserole!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Shallots 

brussel sprouts with bacon, shallots and balsamic vinegar

I made this recipe a couple Thanksgivings ago and it was an absolute delicious hit at the table! The crispy bacon, butter and shallots, mixed with the tangy vinegar gives the brussel sprouts an amazing trio of flavors and the roasting in the oven technique cooks down the balsamic into a glaze coating the crispy oven browned sprouts. The original recipe came from Williams Sonoma and I adapted it a bit by adding the balsamic vinegar and shallots. Thought you didn’t like brussel sprouts? Wait until you try this recipe.

Ingredients:

Water to steam
1 pound large Brussels sprouts
2 ounces thin-sliced pancetta or bacon (3-4 slices)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon premium unsalted butter
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper to taste
Hot sauce to taste

Preparation:

Add water to a large pot with a steamer basket and bring to a boil.

Trim the sprouts: Slice off the base and remove the outer leaves. Cut each sprout in half lengthwise through the core, then make V-shaped cuts to remove the core. With your thumbs on the either side of the V, twist the sprout to open up the leaves a bit. Steam the sprouts for 5 minutes until bright green and tender.

Meanwhile, saute the sliced pancetta or bacon over medium heat in a small skillet until the edges have started to brown, breaking it into pieces with a spatula while it cooks. Remove the cooked bacon and reserve the bacon grease, adding a teaspoon of butter and then add the shallots and cook until soft and golden.

Drain the water from the steamer and plunge sprouts into ice water to stop the cooking, pat dry with paper towels and return the sprouts to the hot pan. Stir in with the pancetta and shallot mixture, including the fat in the skillet. Add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper. Cook until the vinegar reduces and the sprouts are brown on the bottom, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce and toss well.

Put the entire mixture in to a casserole baking dish and cook in the oven for 20 mins on 350 degrees until golden brown. Take out of the oven, drizzle a little more olive oil on top, stir well and serve.

Serves 4-6.

—–

Sweet Potato, Butternut Squash and Potato Gratin

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Potato Gratin

Everyone loves mashed potatoes and gravy for Thanksgiving but this year I decided I’m going to make a Gratin, but mix it up with not just potatoes and cheese, but adding some butternut squash and sweet potatoes to give it a kick and blended flavors of 3 of my favorite veggie sides. The decadent consistency of the garlic Gruyere cream sauce with this trio of veggies is a delicious twist on this classic French potato dish.

Ingredients:

1 garlic clove
½ tsp. sweet paprika
1 cup heavy cream
Pinch of nutmeg
1/3 lb. baking potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/3 lb. butternut squash, peeled and very thinly sliced
1/3 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Thoroughly rub garlic on the bottom and sides of a shallow porcelain gratin dish or medium sized glass casserole dish. Coat with cooking spray. Sprinkle the nutmeg and paprika in the heavy cream and stir. Peel the potatoes, sweet potatoes and squash and cut them into thin slices.

Layer the potatoes in the dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cheese and then 1/3 of the cream. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add a second layer using the squash, another 1/3 of the cheese and then 1/3 of the cream. Sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Add the top layer using the sweet potatoes, the last 1/3 of the cheese and final 1/3 of the cream. Top it off with a dash more salt and pepper. Sprinkle the entire top of the casserole with fresh Parmiagiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped parsley or thyme.

Bake uncovered, about an 50-60 minutes until the gratin is golden brown on top and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

—–

Wild Rice with Cranberries and Pecans

wildricecranberrysalad2

My mom always used to make a wild rice casserole over the holidays with either chicken or shrimp which is delicious as a main course or buffet dinner, but for a Thanksgiving side, this recipe is a bit lighter with tart cranberries to complement the turkey and some pecans for extra crunch.

4 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grape seed oil
3 large shallots minced
2 cups wild rice
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 bay leaf
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup pecans toasted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375.

In a saucepan over medium low heat bring stock to a simmer. In a heavy 2-quart flameproof casserole over medium heat melt butter with the oil. Add shallots and sauté until translucent, add rice and stir until the grains are well coated about 3 minutes.

Stir in the simmering stock, dried cranberries, bay leaf, thyme, sea salt and white pepper. Bring to a simmer then stir and cover. Transfer casserole to the oven and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven.

Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Stir in the pecans and parsley. Serve hot or warm.

Serves 4-6.

—–

Cheddar and Herb Biscuits

cheddar biscuits

Having lived in the South in Atlanta for over a decade, I grew a love for fresh, homemade buttery biscuits. They definitely beat your standard prepackaged rolls from the grocery store and are delicious hot out of the oven with a little bit of real (yes, real!) butter. This version is made with milk, cream and fresh herbs (chives and parsley), mixed with tangy shredded cheddar andParmesan cheese with a dash of cayenne for a spicy kick.

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
1 tablespoon freshly chopped Italian parsley
1/2 cup grated sharp yellow Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, melted

Preparation:

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

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cayenne together using a whisk. Add the herbs, cheese and buttermilk. Stir together until dough forms. Once dough has formed, using an ice cream scooper, scoop out dough onto baking tray. With a brush, lightly butter tops. Bake for 15 minutes.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe adapted from The Neely’s – Food Network

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