Basil Yogurt Smoothie

February 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have been having a very hot winter here in Los Angeles, so I decided it was time to cool down with a smoothie.  But not the super sugary kind that gives you a sugar high and causes you to crash by 4pm.  This smoothie is as good for you as it is good!  With yogurt, basil, and honey it is a fabulous mid-day snack for relaxing on a weekend or even to serve with a sweet breakfast — AND you can’t beat the color!  It is simply beautiful!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I love to use Greek)
  • 1 tablespoon of honey, dissolved in 3 tablespoons of warm water)

Directions:

This smoothie could not be easier to make – so simple!  Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour into tall glass, garnish with basil leaf, and serve!  Yum!

Organic Sweet Corn Pudding

February 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

When I am figuring out a menu, I always try to find flavors and colors that balance each other out.  For example, when I serve something heavy as a main course, I like to offset it with either an extremely light side or a very sweet accompaniment.  With this simple corn pudding, the bright color and intensely sweet taste is a great accent to a boldly flavored main course, such as a rack of lamb or a Mexican feast.  The shot of golden color is like a ray of sunshine on your plate.

There are also two ways I would serve this as a side: either bake it off in a large baking dish and then serve family style or make individual portions in little ramekins so that everyone gets his or her own little portion.  For a casual dinner, I would go with the former; but for a little bit more formal feel, I would serve individual portions.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups organic sweet corn kernels (either cut off a cob or you can sometimes find organic sweet corn kernels in the freezer section)
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan or quattro formaggio cheese, separated into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup portions
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium buttered skillet, saute the onions until they become clear, then add the corn.  If you are using frozen corn, you can put the frozen kernels right in without defrosting. Saute the onions and corn for about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  3. While the corn is cooling, combine eggs, milk, cream, salt, and pepper in a bowl and beat together with a fork.  Stir in the 1/2 cup of Parmesan.
  4. When the corn is cooled, put it into a medium baking dish or individual ramekins, filling either about 2/3 deep (so that you have enough room to pour in the custard mixture).  Pour in the custard mixture and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan.
  5. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the pudding is golden brown on top.  Serve.

Serves 6.

I would love to know if you tried making this and what you served it with!

Butternut Squash Soup

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

This recipe was inspired by a newer addition to my cookbook collection: Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables.  I love this book (along with its accompaniment Chez Panisse Fruit) – it has become my go-to reference when I return from the farmers market with bags full of veggies and want to try something new.  The book is organized by vegetable and has mouthwatering creations that showcase each vegetable’s unique flavors and qualities.

My favorite thing about this soup is that it is not a pureed.  Don’t get me wrong: I love pureed butternut squash soup, but there is something about the texture of the squash that makes me appreciate it more.  The butternut squash is certainly the star here – all other ingredients are intended to highlight the essence of the squash.  This soup is hearty enough to be served on a cold winter night, but also elegant enough to be served in a shot glass before a dinner party.

This recipe is simple and delicious.  Let me know if you enjoy it as much as I do!

Ingredients:

  • 2 small to medium butternut squash
  • 1 quart vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cut each squash in half and scoop out seeds.  Pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each squash half and season with salt and pepper.  Place the squash flat side down onto a baking sheet.  Place 1/4 of a garlic (in its casing) and 1/4 of the rosemary into the cavity of the squash.  Place into oven and bake for 30-50 minutes or until squash is soft.
  • When squash is done, the stock to a simmer in a pot.  Gently scoop out the inside of the squash into the simmering stock.  Add the rosemary and squeeze out the garlic from its casing into the stock as well.  Season to taste.
  • Mash the squash bits inside the soup with a large fork until the mixture is a consistent quality.  Add butter and mix in.
  • Serve.

Rustic Balsamic Potatoes

January 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

When looking for a fast and crowd pleasing side, I frequently turn to potatoes.  So when friends gathered at our place last weekend, I found myself wanting to dress the potatoes up without adding more prep time.  I decided to experiment with balsamic vinegar – it turns out that it gets along well with the potatoes, garlic, onions and spices in this recipe.

The idea behind this dish is to get the potatoes to a daringly dark color that toes the appearance of being burnt.  The balsamic adds an intense depth of flavor, as well as a glorious mahogany color to the plate.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium yellow onion (cut into large pieces)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme
  • 1 cup of balsamic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • salt
  • pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine ingredients in a baking dish and toss together.  Make sure that the olive oil and butter coat the potatoes evenly.  You will probably feel like you have added far too much balsamic vinegar, but not to worry – there is a method behind the madness!  The balsamic vinegar is what gives this dish character.

Place on top rack of preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until top layer of potatoes appears very dark and almost burnt.

Remove from oven and toss.  Serve.

Holiday Breakfast: Panettone French Toast

December 22, 2010 § 1 Comment

I am a huge French Toast fan and am always looking for ways to spruce up the classic.  I am always pondering ways to give the classic a twist – whether it be by using a new kind of bread or croissants.  Given that we are in the middle of the winter holiday season, Italian Panettone seems to be the natural choice to stand in for the trusty French bread.

Panettone are a traditional Italian sweet bread that is made for Christmas and New Year (Italians out there, correct me if I get any of this wrong).  It traditionally takes on a round cake or cupola shape and weighs about one and a half pounds.  I dream of the day I find myself in Milan around Christmas time so I could enjoy a fresh baked Panettone in its natural habitat.

But even here in the states, Panettone are easily acquired if you know where to look.  You can seek out an Italian family member or friend to ship you the original (I am still working on this option myself), pick one up at your local Italian deli (I am fortunate to have this option) or grocery store (some have them handy in time for the holidays), or you can order them online.

I used my usual classic French toast recipe for the egg mixture — whenever trying new recipes I like to switch up one major ingredient at a time so that I know which substitution yields which result.  My husband was the guinea pig this time and I he was certainly not complaining.  The Panettone is so fluffy and soft that it absorbs the egg mixture perfectly.

The final result is one of the fluffiest French toast textures I have ever tasted – the delicate texture is a perfect accompaniment to the raisins in the Panettone and the fruit topping gives it that little something extra.  There is almost a bread pudding type of quality to the middle sections of each slice.  In fact, I might try this as a bread pudding next time.  Will share when I do…

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did — let me know how yours turns out!

Ingredients:

French Toast

  • 1/2 of a Pannetone cake, sliced into evenly cut slices
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

Topping

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (or raw sugar)
  • powdered sugar

Directions:

French Toast

Topping

To serve

White Chocolate, Macadamia Nut, Coconut, and Cranberry Cookies

December 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

I made these cookies several months ago for my husband and his friends.  The cookies are golden and crisp on the outside with a fluffy center.  The perfect balance.  I filled a huge cookie jar with these cookies and thought to myself , “There is no way that all of these cookies will be eaten.”  I was right, by the end of the night only 1/4 of the jar was left.  Success.

Unfortunately, I did not write down the recipe as I was making the cookies.  I decided to try to recreate the original recipe.   Thank goodness I wrote the recipe down this time.

Ingredients:

1.  Preheat your oven to 350 °F.  Add your butter, at room temperature, and both granulated and brown sugars to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed for about 2 minutes.

2.  Mix in the eggs, at room temperature, one at a time.  Make sure each egg is incorporated into the batter before adding the next egg.  Once the eggs are mixed in, add your vanilla extract.

3.  Sift your dry ingredients together, and then add it to your butter mixture.  I add the flour mixture 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix the dry ingredients in until incorporated.  Do not over mix the batter.

4.  Turn the electric mixer off and add the white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, coconut, and chopped macadamia nuts to the batter.  Stir, by hand, to evenly distribute all of these goodies throughout the batter.

5.  Place large tablespoons of batter on a rimmed baking sheet lined with a nonstick mat.  Bake the cookies for 16-18 minutes.  Let the cookies cool, on the sheet, for about 2 minutes before you transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Purple Pig in Chicago

December 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, my hubby and I found ourselves in Chicago and wanting to be dazzled by dinner.  Alas we stumbled upon The Purple Pig, which was voted as one of the 10 Best Restaurants in America by Bon Apetit Magazine.  That was not for nothing.  The food was incredible!

I am a big fan of ordering many small dishes instead of one grandiose entree and this is just the place to share numerous concoctions from the kitchen (which is, by the way, visible to those sitting at the bar).

This is a place like no other — from the Roasted Bone Marrow with Herbs (served with perfectly grilled crispy bread) to the Octopus with Green Beans, Fingerling Potatoes, and Salsa Verde, the menu provided a never-ending cornucopia of surprises.  From where we were seated at the bar, we saw a very large volume of Milk Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Potatoes plates exiting the kitchen — something I will most definitely order the next time around.

A perfectly delightful ending to our feast was the Panini con Nutella (pictured above), the name of which my husband STILL murmurs in his sleep.

What we ordered:

The Purple Pig posts a Recipe of the Month on their website, which is exciting because this month the recipe is for the Milk Braised Pork Shoulder:

Milk Braised Pork Shoulder:
1 3 to 4 lb. Pork shoulder bone removed and cut into 8 oz. Pieces
1 small bunch fresh thyme
5 bay leaves
2 onion, peeled and quarted
1 carrot, peeled and kept in large pieces
2 gallons milk
2 gallons pork stock
salt
pepper
1 rib celery, cut into 3 large pieces
Tie a piece of string around each piece of pork to maintain a nice shape while cooking. In a large pot sear off pork shoulder (season liberally first). Add vegetables and herbs after meat is browned, add liquids and bring to a boil. Season and place in a 350° oven to braise. Should take 2-3 hours.

(Mashed Potatoes)
1 1/4 lbs. Peeled russet potatoes cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 c. warm cream
4 teaspoons butter warm
salt and pepper
Place potatoes in a large pot, add cold water to cover and season aggressively with salt. Bring to a boil and cook till potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes, mash while still hot with rest of the ingredients, season and reserve.

I can’t wait for my next visit to Chi-town!

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