November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving Margarita

I can't believe it's already Thanksgiving week!!  Here's a really fun cocktail to serve now through Christmas.  The girls over at Haute Apple Pie asked me to participate in their Virtual Thanksgiving and I brought the cocktails!!  
After doing a little research I found that cider and tequila is actually a traditional combination so this isn't too far out of left field!  
I would serve these in cocktail glasses for the ladies and highballs or tumblers for the men.  Of course rim the edges!
Rimming the Glass
Rimmed glasses are a fun & flavorful addition to cocktails. For this cocktail I ran the lemon wedge around the rim of the glass to make it wet, I then dipped the glass in the following mixture spread out on a plate:
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
zest of one orange
Optional garnish:
For a sliced apple garnish, place apple slices or wedges in a dish with cool water and the juice from half a lemon or lime. This will keep the apple from turning. Keep the dish at hand when making the cocktails.
Cranberry Cider Margarita (serves 1)
2 oz tequila – I like silver tequila
1/2 oz triple sec
1 oz cranberry juice
1 oz fresh cider
Juice from 1/4 of an orange
In a cocktail shaker combine all of the ingredients with ice. Shake well. Pour into chilled rimmed glass and garnish. Enjoy!!

November 17, 2010

Fall Harvest Carrot Cake

I LOVE carrot cake!!  Since I can remember this is my go to dessert when I'm at a restaurant.  Until now I've never attempted to make this at home.  Last week I realized that I still have lots of carrots in my garden.  What better way to celebrate a fall harvest than with a cake?  I followed a basic Martha Stewart recipe and made some changes to reduce the amount of butter and make it my own.  Untill you make something at home, you never really know how much butter and / or cheese goes into a dish to make it so yummy.  With my basic changes you really can't tell that I've doctored this classic!

Makes one 9-inch layer cake
  • 1 (2 sticks) butter, melted plus more for pans
  • 1/2 cup unsweetend apple sauce
  • 1/2 crushed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup raisins soaked and drained
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (you could use 1/2 wholewheat), plus more for pans
  • 1 cup (3 ounces) pecan halves
  • 1 pound large carrots, peeled
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
  • Read more at John Barricelli's Carrot Cake - Martha Stewart Recipes
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Dust with flour, and tap out any excess. Set aside. Spread pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking pan, and toast in oven until lightly golden, about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand until completely cool. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Finely chop pecans and set aside.
  2. Using the smallest holes (less than 1/4-inch in diameter) of a box grater, grate carrots, yielding 2 1/2 cups. Place carrots, eggs, buttermilk, pineapple, nuts, raisins, vanilla, sugar, and ginger in a large bowl; mix until well combined.
  3. Into a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture until combined. Fold in the butter.
  4. Divide batter between the two cake pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Remove pans from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack; let stand until completely cool.
  5. Place a layer on a cake stand or cardboard round, and spread 3/4 cup frosting over top. Place last cake layer on top, and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of assembled cake. Transfer to refrigerator, and chill 3 to 4 hours.
Frosts one 9-inch layer cake
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 bars (8 ounces each) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • Pinch of salt
Place butter in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, and beat until well combined and fluffy, about 2 minutes more. Add sugar, orange zest, ginger, and salt, and beat for 5 minutes.  If needed add buttermilk to loosen up the frosting.
NOTE: I used Neufch√Ętel instead of cream cheese because it's softer and lower in fat

November 8, 2010

Pancakes with Cinnamon Spiced Berries

Pancakes were one of the first foods I learned how to make.  For whatever reason when I order them out, they never taste as good as when I make them at home.  Most foods I think taste better when they are made by someone else.  Pancakes are about the only exception, and to break that idea my Mom's pancakes always taste better than mine.  This morning I woke up to a snowy mess and we haven't even gotten to Thanksgiving yet.  Mondays are my day off and Chris flew in last night on a red-eye from Seattle and came in this morning, so I thought it would be nice to have breakfast at home!

My pancake recipe couldn't be more easy:
1 cup milk
spoonful of white vinegar
1 egg
1 or 2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup flour (any kind)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt
Mix together dry ingredients and stir in wet ingredients until just mixed
Batter will be lumpy, that's OK!
Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat 
Butter surface and spoon on batter
After 2 or 3 minutes you will see bubbles form on surface of pancake, now it's time to flip
Let cook for another minute and remove

Spiced Berries
These are amazing and the leftovers go well on ice cream, yogurt or cereal!
1 package of frozen mixed berries
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons agave nectar

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium to high heat
Add berries before butter browns
Bring to a boil
Turn down heat to low
Add agave and sprinkle cinnamon and fresh nutmeg onto berries
Let simmer for a few minutes and serve!

Serve pancakes with berries and fresh warm syrup.  If you warm your plate first it helps prevent the pancakes from becoming soggy!

November 5, 2010

Taste of the Times Event - NYC

Last night was a real treat!  I attended Taste of the Times, presented by the NY Times held at the Architects & Designers Building (in NYC).  Snaidero has a corporately owned studio in the building which is how I got my invite.  I'm always a bit leery of these big events that offer tastings of well known chefs.  There is always the concern if the chef will actually be there or how good the food can be if they are prepping for hundreds of people.  This event totally proved me wrong!  The chefs were there and the food was fantastic!  And all of the chefs seemed genuinely happy to interact with their "fans".  
Above is chef Oriol Balaguer from Born Confections.  He's known for his creativity and concepts which would be no surprise after working seven years with Ferran Adria at El Bulli!  Last night he served chocolate mouse with a vanilla truffle creme and crunchy chocolate bits on top!
Michael Lomonaco of Porter House New York was serving a really yummy beef stew over cheese grits.  It was great food for last night, totally season appropriate as well as something that would travel well.  And as usual he seemed so happy to chat it up while serving his food!
The greatest disappointment of the evening came because Dan Barber of Blue Hill didn't make it, or at least he wasn't there any of the times I stopped by...  Above on the left are little cups with fresh beets, pine nuts and homemade yogurt from Blue Hill - so refreshing!  On the right is Nick Anderer rolling some sort of fish!  He had such attention to detail while rolling and serving so many of these bites!
Above is Margo Lewis of Cake Bliss!  She's known for her floral designed cakes and real ingredients.  She brought one of her floral confections and bite size samples.  YES!! That is glitter on the frosting!  Those green little bites tasted just like red velvet cake - go figure!  
Francois Payard was even there!  He is now the Pastry Chef and Co-Owner of FPB down on West Houston Street.  I haven't been but apparently its a more causal bakery.   For this event he brought his signature bite-size works of art, and yes they really do taste good!! 
I loved that Michael Psilakis of Eos, Gus & Gabriel, and Kefi didn't wear a chef jacket.  He went and had his own style and did his own thing.  He served a cucumber soup with crab.  You were supposed to eat the crab first and then sip the chilled soup.  This would be beautiful during the summer as it was so refreshing!
There were so many different chefs and foods to taste - and don't forget the wine and cocktails!  The best part of the evening is that there were seasoned pros and newbies all side by side.   At the end of the evening I found Kori of e.e. cookies.  I think she was my favorite presenter.  She's just starting out with here own cookie shop.  Her flavors are true classics and not fussed up.  My favorite were the miniature pumpkin whoopie cookies with dried cranberries!  As soon as I finished my first bite I knew exactly what to experiment with at home!  Kori matches her cookies - vibrant & sweet!  So for your holiday parties you should totally order her cookies for dessert, they won't disappoint!
I can't wait to go next year.  There were many, many chefs that I didn't mention.  The bill is $80 a person but it includes all you can eat and drink along with a close up with celeb chefs!  It's always the beginning of November so you'll have to catch it next year!

November 2, 2010

Smokey Bacon Potato Leek Soup

I had the AC on just last week and now it's time for the heat.  It's also time for blankets, fires and soups!  A friend brought back some bacon fresh from a smoke house up in Vermont.  I wanted to make something that would compliment the flavor so I came up with a Smokey Potato Leek Soup and it was fantastic.  Chris and I ended up eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner since it was sooo good & simple to make!

4  - 6 pieces of bacon
3 - 4 leeks well washed and chopped
4 - 6 large red potatoes peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves 
leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
1 /2 cup dry white wine
1 standard box of chicken stock
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
creme fraiche or sour cream to taste

- In a deep stock pot cook pieces of bacon.  When bacon is crispy remove and place on paper towels to drain.
- You will cook the leeks in the drippings.  If you want you can remove some of the oil depending on how much was rendered from the bacon.  My bacon wasn't all that fatty so I left what was in the pot.
- Over medium heat add the leeks.  Cook for 10 minutes.
- De-glaze with white wine
- Add potatoes, garlic, stock, herbs, salt and pepper
- Simmer covered for 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft
- If you have an immersion blender you can blend soup at this point to desired thickness
- I just have a regular blender.  In batches place soup in blender, leave cover off and place a towel over opening.  Blend until just smooth.  I needed to add some water at this point to get the mixture to blend.
- For an extra smooth soup you can pour blended soup through a sieve.  I found my briefly blended soup to have a lovely and smooth texture so I didn't bother. 
- Don't use a Cuisinart for this step as it will make the texture like paste.
** Never try to blend a hot liquid fully covered!  The heat will expand, the top will blow off and you will have a HOT mess!!  Trust me, this can happen as I learned many years ago!!
To serve:
Swirl in a spoonful of sour cream and top with chopped bacon, salt and pepper.  It's also nice to have some freshly toasted hearty bread and white wine on the side.