Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Caramelized Red Onion Bruschetta

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A very easy and tasty appetizer to make for guests or your family. The caramelized red onion marmalade can be made ahead and whole dish can be put together in a short time.

Caramelized Red Onion Marmalade

3 large red onions (about 2 lbs) thinly sliced
4 T brown sugar
1 cup dry red wine
4 T balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the red onions and brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the onions begin to caramelize and turn golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
Stir in the wine and vinegar, increase the heat to moderately high stirring often, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 15 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Makes about 2 cups

For the Bruschetta

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.

1 loaf good quality French bread sliced into 1/2 inch slices. Brush each slice with a little extra virgin olive oil. Bake until lightly brown on both sides, turning once, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

1/2 lb. crumbled goats cheese.

Top each slice of bread with about a tablespoon of the red onion marmalade. Sprinkle with goats cheese and heat in a broiler until warmed and goats cheese is slightly melted. Makes about 24 appetizers.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuscan Tomato Soup

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I have several books on soups in my cookbook library, but
I love the photos and the broad selection of soups in the Williams-Sonoma Soup cookbook. I wanted a quick and easy soup to make for Soup, Glorious Soup hosted by Alanna of Veggie Venture as the deadline is February 28, 2007.

There was a great looking Tuscan Tomato Soup in the Soup cookbook that I was eager to try, but the recipe called for fresh tomatoes which are almost impossible to find in the wintertime-it was definitely a summer soup crying for dead ripe tomatoes and fresh basil. A quick look in my overflowing pantry gave me a brilliant idea-why not use the bottled pasta sauce as a substitute? Trader Giotto's(Trader Joe's)Rustico Pomodoro Pasta Sauce is made from imported Italian plum tomatoes, mushrooms, green and red peppers and white wine.I bought this sauce in Atlanta recently where the store is the current rage in new supermarkets in the Atlanta area. I had broth, onions, garlic, French bread and Parmesan cheese, but alas, no fresh basil! My grocer will have the basil tomorrow which is usually happens when you only need one item, but did have fresh oregano. So here is a very different Tuscan Tomato Soup.

Tuscan Tomato Soup

6-8 slices French bread, 1 inch thick
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 24 ounce bottle Rustico Pomodoro Pasta Sauce, or your favorite brand
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves, plus 6-8 whole leaves for garnish
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place the bread on the baking sheet and bake until lightly browned, turning once,about 10-15 minutes. Set aside while making the soup.

In a large soup pot, warm the oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring frequently, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook about 30 seconds, taking care not to brown.

Add the Rustico Pomodoro Pasta sauce, diced tomatoes and stock, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook about 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf.

Using a hand blender, pure the soup in batches, leaving just a bit of texture. Return to medium and reheat gently. Add the chopped oregano and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a slice of toasted bread in the bottom of each warmed bowl and sprinkle with a spoonful of Parmesan cheese. Ladle the soup on top and garnich with an oregano leaf. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Schiacciata con l’uva-Grape Schiacciata

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This is my second posting on focaccia, the first one a Rosemary Focaccia, a wonderful Italian flatbread which starts with a very simple dough made with or without a biga(a type of sourdough starter), stretched out in an oiled baking pan and topped with a myriad of toppings. Focaccia dough can also be made into individual breads and filled with meats or cheeses. The dough is basically a blank canvas with you as the artist. Rather than post another savory focaccia, I opted for a sweet one-a grape schiacciata, a sweet focaccia dough redolent with crushed anise seeds and Sambuca, an anise-flavored liqueur, layered with grapes and covered with a crunchy turbinado sugar. In Tuscany, Sangiovese grapes are used, but here I have used purple seedless grapes.

Schiacciata means flattened, crushed or squashed in Italian and is a term that means flatbread from Tuscany, whereas focaccia is more of a broad term for flatbread. Schiacciate can be sweet or savory and made with or without the biga. I am a great admirer of Carol Field whose books on Italian food traditions are among the best. Schiacciata con l'uva comes from her book Focaccia-Simple Breads From the Italian Oven.


Sponge or biga

2 teaspoons active dry yeast-not rapid-rise yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup warm water,105 degrees to 115 degrees F
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons(150 grams)unbleached all-purpose flour


3 tablespoons Sambuca liqueur
3 tablespoons warm water, 105 to 115
2 1/2 cups(350 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons aniseeds, slightly crushed
1/2 cup(1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 8 equal pieces.


3 pounds seedless Red Flame grapes stemmed and washed
About 6 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Sambuca liqueur

To make the sponge: Whisk the east and sugar into the warm water in a large mixer bowl and let stand until frothy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the flour in 2 additions, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand until bubbly, about 30-45 minutes.

To make the dough: Beat the liqueur and water into the sponge. In a heavy-duty mixer, mix the flour, salt,and aniseeds into the yeast mixture with the paddle attachment. Stir in the butter 2 pieces at a time. Change to the dough hook and knead for about 3 minutes, or until the dough is slightly sticky, elastic, and can be pulled up into peaks with your fingertips.

First rise. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise 30 minutes.

Second rise. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Place each one on a lightly floured rimless baking sheet and let rise 1 hour. If you have a baking stone, about 30 minutes before you plan to bake, preheat oven to 450 degrees with the baking stone inside.

Shaping: Lightly oil two 10-inch springform cake pans. Take 1 round of dough and flatten it so that it fills the bottom of the baking pan. Cover with a layer of grapes and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon turbinado sugar.

Flatten and stretch out a second ball of dough, place it on top of the grapes, and flatten it to cover the grape layer. Pinch the edges together well. Cover with a second layer of grapes and sprinkle 1-2 tablespoons turbinado sugar over the top. Repeat with remaining dough and grapes for second pan.

Baking: Place the baking pans in the oven on the baking stone and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees F, tilt the pan to collect the sugar syrup, and spread it along with a bit of Sambuca over the top of the dough. Continue baking until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Let cool a few minutes in the pan, then slide the schiacciate out and let cool on a rack.

Makes two 10-inch schiacciate, serves 10-12.

Enjoy a slice with a glass of Sambuca. Don't forget to float three coffee beans in your glass to guarantee wealth, health and happiness.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Basil's Chicken Noodle Soup-In Memoria

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Basil loved chicken and would often lie on the floor in front of the stove as I boiled chicken for soup, chicken pot pie or enchiladas, the comfort dishes my family loved. He knew that if he stayed close, a nice fat, juicy piece of chicken would eventually come his way.

My constant companion, he was always by my side whether on our power walks when he was younger or in the passenger seat of my car as we went away for weekends to visit friends, family or to our weekend home in Savannah. Proudly perched in the basket on my bike, his fur would be slicked back by the wind and nothing, except maybe a squirrel darting across the road, would distract him from enjoying the ride.

As he grew older, the long walks were too much for his little legs to deal with and he had cataracts, so on our short walks, the squirrels would run by taunting him as if they knew his sight was going. He was a tough little Yorkie, nevertheless, having undergone six bladder stone surgeries in his almost 17 years. Some people thought we were crazy to put him through the surgeries, but we always confirmed with the vet each time that he would be able to withstand the surgeries. He was like one of our children and deserved the same treatment.

On February 7, 2007, a month and ten days from our shared birthday on March 17, Basil couldn't shake the short debilitating illness so we made our final trip to the vet to have him euthanized. In the waiting room, his eyes stayed on mine as the vet gave him the first shot to sedate him. As it took effect, his eyes closed and with the second shot, it was over.

Basil was my best friend and he will be missed. This soup is dedicated to him, a sweet, loving and faithful friend.

Basil's Chicken Noodle Soup

Stock Ingredients
3-4 Bone in chicken breast halves
1 onion, peeled and left whole
water or stock to cover

Soup Ingredients
2 carrots, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and light green section, thinly sliced, washed in cold water and drained in colander
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cut corn, or frozen kernels
2 ounces dried egg noodles
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Bring stock or water to simmer. Add chicken breast pieces and onion and bring to a boil, skimming foam that comes to the top. Cook until chicken pieces are tender and no pink remains. Remove chicken from stock, let cool and remove from bone, chopping into bite size pieces. Discard onion.

Strain stock and place in large soup pot. Add vegetables, chicken, thyme and salt and pepper. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Add noodles and simmer until tender. Adust seasonings.

You can add other vegetables to this soup also. Serves 6. Garnish with fresh thyme.

Salmon and Leek Pie With Sour Cream Chile Sauce

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I love participating in the blog events as it gives me an opportunity to try different recipes and to practice my food styling and photography skills. When I saw that CookSister was the host of Waiter-There's Something in My---Pie, I couldn't resist trying this Salmon and Leek Pie recipe for the event. Last month, Andrew was host for Waiter, There's Something in my---Stew which garnered 44 entries. Johanna of the Passionate Cook is the third blogger involved with Waiter, there's something in my--- blog event.

I had all the ingredients already on hand with the exception of the fresh dill, but dried worked just fine. When substituting dried herbs for fresh, remember that one teaspoon dried herbs is equivalent to one tablespoon fresh herbs. A very colorful pie, Salmon and Leek Pie conjures up Springtime even though it's bitterly cold on this February day I am writing this post. A nice cuppa tea helps though.

Salmon and Leek Pie


4 large leeks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless salmon fillet
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill-I used 1 tablespoon dried
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water
1 17 1/4-ounce package frozen puff pastry sheets (thawed according to package directions)

Trim leeks, using only white and light green parts and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Wash leeks twice in a bowl of cold water, draining in a colander each time. Pat dry. Melt butter in a large skillet, cook leeks over medium heat until tender, about 12 minutes. Cool and set aside. Cut salmon into 3/4 inch chunks and toss in a bowl with leeks, dill, zest, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, whisk egg and water together to make an egg wash. On a floured surface, roll out one puff pastry sheet into a 10-inch square and the other into a 12-inch square. Transfer the 10-inch sheet to a floured baking sheet and mound salmon filling in the center, forming a round 8 inches in diameter. Brush edges evenly with egg wash. Carefully place remaining 12-inch square over the salmon filling and press edges together to seal. With a sharp knife, trim edges of pastry to form a 10-inch round. Crimp edges and cut 4 steam vents on top of the crust. Chill pie, loosely covered, at least 1 hour and up to 3. I chilled my pie 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake pie in middle of oven until pastry is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve pie at warm or at room temperature with Sour Cream Chile Sauce

1 red bell pepper
1 fresh red or green hot chile
1 16-ounce container sour cream

Quick roast and peel red bell pepper and cut into 1-inch thick strips. Mince enough green chile to measure 1 teaspoon-use more if you want a more picante sauce. In a food processor or blender, blend roasted pepper, chile and sour cream until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sauce may be made 2 days ahead and chilled.

Makes about 2 cups.

From Gourmet Magazine
Recipe Here

Monday, February 12, 2007

Blood Oranges in Spiced Caramel Sauce

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Originally from Sicily, blood oranges have a beautiful red interior and are juicy and sweeter than your everyday orange. The blood orange gets its color from a pigment know as anthocyanin which is more commonly found in red fruits and flowers.Depending on the variety, not only is the inside dark, but the outside can have dark blushes of red.

The three main varieties are the Moro which is grown in San Diego, California, the Sanguigno and the Tarocco. In the US, the blood orange season is available almost year-round with the Texas crop from December to March and the California crop from November to May.

Blood orange juice makes a beautiful cocktail with its dark red color and can be used in the same way as common oranges in other dishes such as salads, sorbets, granitas and compotes.

Blood Oranges in Spiced Caramel Sauce is an easy compote to put together and can be served over cake with candied pistachios and whipped cream or eaten just as a simple fruit dessert.The orange compote would be a colorful dish as part of a brunch. Shown in the photo above is the striking difference between blood oranges and navel oranges.

Blood Oranges in Spiced Caramel Syrup
Adapted From Gourmet's Sweets-Desserts for Every Occasion


1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
3 tablespoons dark rum

In a dry saucepan, cook sugar over moderate heat, stirring with a fork until melted. Cook caramel without stirring, swirling pan, until it turns a golden caramel, taking care not to burn the caramel as it turns very fast. Remove pan from heat and slowly add water down the side of the pan. The caramel will bubble up. Stir in the spices; return to heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until caramel is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Simmer 5 minutes. Set aside while preparing the blood oranges.

Using a sharp knife, peel and pith oranges and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. Transfer to large bowl and pour caramel sauce over them. Macerate oranges, covered and chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Serves 6.

For further reading and other recipes using blood oranges, check out Gourmet Sleuth.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chocolate Espresso Pots De Creme For Your Valentine

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Oh, if it be to choose and call thee mine, love, thou art every day my Valentine! ~Thomas Hood

This rich little pots de creme dessert is one recipe that I will make again and again. The chocolate espresso pots de creme present well and can be made ahead of time to lighten the load of the Valentines Day meal preparation. And for you coffee lovers, espresso powder adds a wonderful zing to the pots de creme. You can decrease it to your liking, omit it or use the full amount of espresso powder. The chocolate curls give this dark chocolate dessert a classic look. Try topping the pots de creme with whipped cream or fresh raspberries for a completely different presentation.

Suggested wine: Cockburn's (Tawny, Vintage, Colheita)

6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons instant-espresso powder*
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons sugar

Special equipment: 8 (4- to 5-oz) ramekins or pot de crème cups
Garnish: bittersweet chocolate curls (see cooks' note, below)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.

Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring cream, milk, espresso powder (to taste), and a pinch of salt just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring until espresso powder is dissolved, then pour over chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in another bowl, then add warm chocolate mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a 1-quart glass measure and cool completely, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Line bottom of a baking pan (large enough to hold ramekins) with a folded kitchen towel and arrange ramekins on towel. Poke several holes in a large sheet of foil with a skewer. Divide custard among ramekins, then bake custards in a hot water bath, pan covered tightly with foil, until custards are set around edges but still slightly wobbly in centers, 30 to 35 minutes.

Transfer ramekins to a rack to cool completely, uncovered, about 1 hour. (Custards will set as they cool.) Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours.

Cooks' notes:
• Pots de crème can chill up to 2 days.
• To make chocolate curls, shave off curls from a piece of chocolate at room temperature using a vegetable peeler.

*Available at some supermarkets, specialty foods shops, and The Baker's Catalogue (800-827-6836).

Makes 8 servings.
Gourmet recipe here

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Torrone Molle-Italian Chocolate Bars

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What a busy weekend before the Super Bowl! The Thursday before, I attended Chef Kevin Rathbun's demonstration of Hass Avocado recipes which I posted earlier in the week here. It was great fun, plus the shopping and restaurants in Atlanta are superb. The weekend wore me out and I needed to write an entry in my blog, but I wanted something quick and easy.

With my abundance of Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate and several different kinds of nuts in my pantry to use, I finally found a great chocolate bar recipe called "Torrone Molle", an Italian speciality. The word itself appealed to me. It only took 30 minutes to make, plus 8 hours chilling, so it was a great make-ahead, also. Torrone Molle is great with a strong cup of coffee or espresso.

Torrone Molle

6 oz/125g butter, softened
6 oz/125g bittersweet chocolate, melted over double boiler on simmer
1/2 cup shelled walnuts, coarsely ground
3/8 cup blanched almonds, coarsely ground
3/8 cup shelled hazelnuts, coarsely ground
2/3 cup golden superfine sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon brandy
6 oz/125g plain cookies, I used Leibniz butter biscuits

Brush an 11x8 inch/28x20-cm jelly roll pan with oil. Place the softened butter in a bowl, add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. Stir in the walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. Place the sugar and water in a heavy-bottom saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved.

Boil mixture steadily until a temperature of 241 degrees F/116 degrees C has been reached on a jelly thermometer, or to soft ball stage. Let cool for a few minutes, then beat vigorously. Pour into the chocolate mixture, stirring constantly, until smooth.

Stir in the brandy. Break the cookies up into smaller almond size pieces and stir gently into the mixture. Turn into prepared pan and press to flatten. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight. Remove from refrigerator just before serving and cut into diamond shapes. Makes about 24 pieces

Adapted from Best Ever Chocolate, Parragon Publishing

Friday, February 02, 2007

Looks Good Enough to Eat!!

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I am so surprised and pleased that my photo from December won 1st Place in Edibility during the recent edition of DMBLGIT-January, 2007 hosted by Annie and judged by Andrew, Bea, Lara and David. Thanks so much to all of them for their hard work in choosing these awards as there were so many fantastic entries from some super talented bloggers.

Congratulations to all the winners. Erielle of Fancy Toast will be next months host.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Alaska Salmon and Halibut Chowder

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Brrr-what a wet and cold day we have this first day of February, the shortest month and usually the coldest in the part of Georgia I live in. It's definitely a soup, stew or chowder day. I have salmon and halibut in my freezer bought from Great Alaska Seafood Company and most of the other ingredients typical to a chowder on hand-potatoes, celery, bacon and light cream so that's what I'll have. My chowder is a quick meal of about 40 minutes and all you need is some crusty french bread or Southern cornbread to have a tasty and warming meal in no time.

Alaska Salmon and Halibut Chowder

3/4 lb each salmon and halibut fillets, fresh or frozen
5 slices smoky bacon, diced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/1/2 cups bottled clam juice
4 medium potatoes, diced large
1/4 cup flour
1 cup water
1 cup half and half or light cream
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh thyme for garnish

Rinse salmon and halibut, remove skin and bones and cut into bite size pieces.

In a large dutch oven, saute bacon until lightly browned, drain all but 1 tablespoon fat. Add onions and celery and cook until tender. Add one cup white wine. Cook for 2 minutes then add chicken broth, clam juice and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add salmon and halibut. Cook 5 -8 minutes.

Combine flour and water. Stir into chowder. Add light cream or half and half and bring to a boil. Cook about 3 minutes. Add fresh thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Serve in big soup bowls and garnish with more fresh thyme.
Gadget by The Blog Doctor.