December 23, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Carla


So sorry to be tardy in getting another post out. The good news is that I’ve been busy meeting deadlines for an e-book, a couple of magazine articles and finishing the editing on a book to be released in spring 2011.  I hope to get a post online next week, but in the meantime, here’s an easy, easy appetizer to get you over the entertaining hump. It is from Meredith and my book Everday to Entertaining (2011) Happy, happy, everyone!

Crab Dip with Artichokes and Jalapeno

Hands on time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour
Makes about 3 cups

In our experience, crab dishes really add razzle-dazzle to a cocktail party, especially when combined with goat cheese, artichoke hearts and nutty Parmesan. When served in a chafing dish (so it stays hot) this retro crabby dip reaches back through time to the 50’s and 60’s when neighbors dressed up and met for hors d’oeuvres and cocktails before dinner. Remember the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. If only Holly Golightly had had the sense to make this little nosh for her guests to nibble, her little party mightn’t have gotten so out of hand.

Must have - Chafing dish: Savvy hostesses love chafing dishes because they keep hot foods hot and require minimal attention during the party. We prefer chafing dishes with a pyrex liner dish and sterno heat source. That way you can fill the pyrex dish with the crab dip and heat it in the oven, then transfer it to the chafing dish and essentially forget about it for the night.

Makes about 3 cups
2 tbsp vegetable oil 25 mL
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper 50 mL
2 green onions, minced 2
1 stalk celery, minced 1
1 clove garlic, minced 1
5 oz goat cheese, crumbled 150 g
1 tbsp pickled jalapenos 15 mL
1 14 oz (400 g) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 1
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated 75 mL
3 tbsp cup mayonnaise 45 mL
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 15 mL
1 tsp lemon juice 5 mL
1/4 tsp salt 1 mL
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper 1 mL
8 oz pasteurized crabmeat, drained 125 mL
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced 50 mL
1/4 cup toasted almond slices 50 mL
Pita chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)

1. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Add the red pepper, green onion and celery and sauté, stirring until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the goat cheese and let the heat from the vegetables melt it.
2. To the bowl add the jalapenos, artichoke hearts, Parmesan, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, lemon juice, salt, pepper, crab and parsley and stir to combine. Transfer to a 4 cup (1 L) oven safe dish and top with the almond slices. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until the dip is hot all the way through. Serve hot with the pita wedges as an accompaniment.
Make ahead: The dip can be assembled 24 hours in advance and kept covered and refrigerated. If baking the dip off cold, add 10 minute to the warming time.

June 29, 2010

German Chocolate Cake

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith


Cake. There is just something special about the word. It brings to mind images of parties and happy times. I’ll never forget making my own birthday cake with my Grandma when I was seven. We made a tiered yellow cake with pink frosting and lots and lots of sprinkles. Looking back on it, I doubt I was involved in much of the actual baking, but I know I was instrumental in putting on the final touches. She was probably sweeping up sprinkles from her kitchen floor for weeks.
One of my Grandma’s favorite cakes, and my absolute favorite, is German Chocolate. This is a gene I’m proud to have passed on to at least 2 of my three sons, who always request it for their birthdays. Although, I’ll venture a guess that the fact that my husband and middle son don’t like coconut, effectively eliminating the competition for seconds…and thirds, may come into play in making that choice.
Really though, what’s not to love about a cake that, if not for just a few moist crumbs, would certainly be classified as a candy? After all, the incredibly decadent and insanely addictive coconut pecan frosting only needs to be enrobed in chocolate to be considered a bar (are you listening Mars?).
Not being a pastry chef, I also love the fact that I don’t have to wrestle with decorating this cake. It needs only to have the frosting slathered on the top of each layer to make it look like something I’d jump over 10 Cake Boss concoctions to eat.
Simple and delicious. Heaven.

Kitchen Counter Point- Take a moment to toast the pecans before adding them to the frosting mixture. The difference in flavor is night and day. One of my favorite ways to toast nuts, especially in the heat of the summer, is in the microwave. I place in the a microwave safe bowl and, on high, cook for two minutes.  Then set the microwave to cook in 30 second intervals, stirring each time, until the nuts are the desired level of toasty.
German Chocolate Cake with Coconut Pecan Frosting

Serves 10

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
1-1/2 cups toasted, chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 9-inch round pans, by greasing, lining with parchment and flouring.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to combine. Set aside.

Into the mixer bowl add the sugar, butter and shortening. Mix on medium until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs to the batter one at a time. Beat until smooth.

Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture in the mixer bowl followed by 1/3 of the buttermilk. Add half of the remaining dry ingredients to the mixer bowl followed by half the milk. Mix until incorporated and add the last of the dry ingredients followed by the remaining buttermilk.
Spread the batter evenly into prepared round cake pans, greased, lined with parchment then greased and floured, and bake for 20-25 or until tester comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes. Turn out of the pans and peel off the parchment paper.

To make the frosting: Combine the milk, sugar, butter, egg yolks and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and golden in color, about 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut and pecans.

Lay one cake layer on a serving plate and top with the one-third of the frosting. Repeat with remaining layers and frosting. Serve.

April 15, 2010

Chocolate Orange Shortbreads

Filed under: Cookies, Uncategorized — Tags: — by Meredith


One of life’s little luxuries I enjoy the most is afternoon tea. There’s almost nothing better and it’s possibly the best part of being able to work at home. I might eat lunch on the run or at my desk, but I always make a concerted effort to sit down in the afternoon, when the house is quiet, before the kids come home, and have a cup of tea. And of course, what is a cup of tea without a cookie. And really, what is a cookie if it’s not chocolate.

This Chocolate Orange Shortbread, from The Mixer Bible, Second Edition is one I often turn to when I’m looking for a culinary Calgon moment. It’s rich, buttery goodness is ever so slightly cut by a bright note of orange, and the dough comes together so easily. For this recipe, we are making it in a mixer, but it could just as easily be done in a food processor or even by hand.

chocolate-shortbread-0121 Kitchen Counter Point- Although these cookies are great rolled out and cut into rounds, for a different twist, I also like to roll out the dough slightly and then press it into a small (I use a 7-1/2 inch), fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. It takes about 20 minutes to cook and I cut the cookies into wedges with a serrated knife when they are still slightly warm. You will need two tart pans for this recipe, or just keep one half of the dough chilled while the other is baking and then repeat the process. Make sure to thoroughly cool down your pan though before pressing the second batch of dough in. You don’t want to melt it before it gets in the oven.
Chocolate Orange Shortbreads

Makes 2 dozen cookies
1-1/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tbsp orange zest, finely grated
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 oz bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Position racks in top third and bottom third of oven and. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Set aside.

In the mixer bowl, using the paddle, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Stop to scrape bowl down. Add in the orange zest and reduce the speed to low. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and beat until well blended. Gather the dough into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4-inch. Cut into 2-inch circles and place 1-1/2-inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake shortbread for 5 minutes. Reverse sheets. Bake until shortbread looks dry and feels firm to touch, about 5 minutes longer. Cool on sheets for 1 minute. Remove to racks and cool completely.
Place the bittersweet chocolate in metal bowl set over saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Fit a pastry bag with 1/8-inch plain tips; spoon chocolate into the bag. Or, spoon chocolate into a small plastic bag (cut off 1 tip from each bag). Pipe chocolate
decoratively over cookies. Let stand until chocolate sets, about 1 hour. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight in single layers between sheets of waxed paper.)

March 23, 2010

Fiery Thai Beef Salad

Filed under: Salads, Stews, Uncategorized — by Meredith


I pride myself on being a hardy soul. Someone that never gets the winter blues. But I have to admit, with the sun shining and warm weather on the way, I’m happier than usual that Spring has sprung. This is the time of year I’m ready to put away my beloved, hard working Le Creuset and fire up the grill, even if my neighbors think I’m crazy. Apparently they don’t find 40 degrees to be short sleeve weather. It is to me though. Especially after months of 20 degrees and lower. This is exactly the time when I need to heat up from the inside out with something bright and fresh like this Fiery Thai Beef Salad.

They say that the heat from chiles, or capsaicin, prompts the release of endorphins, those “feel good” opiates naturally released in the body. If that’s true then my, oh my, does this salad feel good!

Light and refreshing, flank steak is nestled with lemongrass and mint on a bed of romaine and drizzled with a lime-chile vinaigrette. If you’re a chilehead, this is the dish for you and feel free to add as many chiles as you dare. This is the perfect dish for those trying to cut back on fat, because the steak is lean and the dressing is fat free.

0141Kitchen Counter Point: When working with fresh lemongrass it’s important to use the tender part of the inner stalk. When you trim the root end, you should be able to see rings. If you still see a woody center, you’re not far enough up the stalk. Once you trim the root end, you should have about 4 inches of tender stalk before you get to the tough section towards the end.

Fiery Thai Beef Salad

Serves 4

1 pound lean flank steak
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup cilantro plus additional for garnish
2-4 Thai bird or Serrano chilies
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-1/2 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/3 cup lime juice
6 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
16 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 stalk lemon grass, tough outer leaves removed, finely chopped (see tip)
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Season the steak with salt and pepper. Prepare grill or broiler. Place steak on grill rack or broiler pan and cook 5 minutes on each side or until the meat is a medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine cilantro, chilies, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Cut steak thinly across grain.

Mound the lettuce in the middle of a serving tray. Drape the beef slices on top of the lettuce and surround with the tomatoes, lemongrass, onion and mint. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with additional cilantro leaves. Serve immediately.

March 3, 2010

Green Posole with Pork and Chicken

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith


While I’ll admit that March finds many people drinking green beer and wearing often disturbing green attire, my attention turns to one of my favorite and seasonally color appropriate dishes, Green Posole with Pork and Chicken.
Posole is a Mexican soup with meltingly tender pieces of shredded pork and chicken and earthy hominy, so thick in the spicy, tomatillo and chile flavored broth that calling this a soup is a stretch. It lands somewhere between the soup and stew category, which makes it a wonderful dish to turn to for hearty appetites.
Growing up in San Diego, with it’s rich heritage of wonderful Mexican food, you’d think this dish would have been a childhood staple, along with my mothers chile rellenos and tacos, but I had never tried posole until I took a trip through New Mexico, where it’s a culinary staple, with my husband many years ago. What I love most about the dish is it’s deeply comforting quality. There is something so soul-satisfying about hominy, which will come as no surprise to my Southern friends who’ve been enjoying this ingredient in it’s many forms forever. My Texas grandma loved it and served it often, which probably accounts for my attraction to it. In posole it finds a wonderful home, nestled in with the shards of meat and makes the perfect foil to the acidic tomatillos and spicy chiles.
Kitchen Counter Point: Because in many parts of the country tomatillos remain a mystery to the home cook, they are often left in the grocery store produce section way past their prime. The husk can often hide a bad tomatillo, so when your shopping for them look for fresh looking husks that aren’t discolored and give it a squeeze to make sure it’s firm and not squishy.


Green Posole with Pork and Chicken

Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds lean pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 pounds skinless chicken thighs
1 white onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Mexican), crumbled
10 cups chicken stock
1 pound tomatillos, husked
2 serrano chiles
1/2 cup hulled (green) pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 15 ounce cans white hominy, rinsed and drained
Avocado, diced
Cilantro leaves
Chopped sweet onion
Lime wedges

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season the pork and chicken with 1 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Working in 2 batches, so that you don’t overcrowd the pan, brown the meat on all sides, about 5 minutes a side. Remove the meat as you brown it and set it on a plate. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.

Lower the heat to medium and add the onion to the pot. Cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook for another minute. Add the pork, chicken and chicken stock and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until the pork and chicken are tender. Skim as much fat as possible from the top. Remove the pork and chicken from the broth and cool.

Meanwhile, place the tomatillos and serranos in a small baking dish under a preheated broiler. Broil until the tomatillos and chiles are blackened in spots, turn over and blacken in spots on the other side. Let them cool and remove and discard the stems from both the tomatillos and chiles. Transfer to a blender with the 1/2 cup of the liquid from the soup, pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. Blend until smooth.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and bones from the chicken and shred both chicken and pork into bite-sized pieces.

Strain the broth and discard the solids and return the stock to the soup pot. Add the tomatillo-pumpkin seed mixture and the hominy and return to a gentle simmer over low heat. Cook for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Add the chicken, pork and remaining salt back into the pot and cook for 5 minutes.

Ladle into heated bowls and serve with the avocado, cilantro, onion and lime wedges.

January 15, 2010

Five Soups to Savor

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith

Beef and Balsamic Roasted Onion Soup
Combining balsamic vinegar with roasted onions brings out the best elements in both. The sweet, but tart vinegar and flavorful onions made slightly sweet by the roasting process play off the savoriness of the beef beautifully.

Serves 6

1 lb beef stew meat, well trimmed 500g
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil, divided 45 mL
1-1/2 cups red wine 375 mL
1/2 tsp dried thyme 2 mL
6 cups beef broth 1.5 L
6 large onions, cut into 1/4-inch (.5 cm) slices 6
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar, divided 50 mL
3/4 cup cream 175 mL

1. Season the meat with salt and pepper. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp of the oil over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, add the meat to the pan, making sure not to overcrowd. Brown the meat well on all sides. Remove the meat and deglaze the pan with the red wine, scraping the bottom to release all the browned bits.
2. Lower the heat and add the beef, thyme and broth to the pot. Simmer for about 1-1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, reserving broth. Discard any fat and gristle and shred the meat into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces.
3. While the beef is cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange the onions on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with remaining oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast the onions for 45-55 minutes or until deeply browned. Add 3 tbsp (45 mL) balsamic vinegar and toss to coat. Continue to roast, stirring occasionally, until the onions are dark brown and glazed.
4. Add the onions to the soup, along with the cream and remaining vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Reseason if necessary with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Creamy Three Onion Soup with Crispy Shallots

Serves 6

3 tbsp butter 45 mL
3 medium leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly (white and pale green part only) 3
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly 2
2 garlic cloves, minced 2
4 cups beef broth 1 L
1 cup water 250 mL
4 sprigs thyme 4
1 cup heavy cream 250 mL
2 tbsp red wine vinegar 30 mL
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Crispy Shallots (see below)

1. Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, onions and garlic. Sauté until they are brown, about 15 minutes. Add the broth, water and thyme and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs and process the soup with an immersion blender, food processor or blender until the soup is smooth. Return to the pan and stir in cream, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly, but do not bring to a boil.
Ladle into serving bowls and top with 1 or 2 croutons.

Crispy Shallots
Makes enough to garnish six servings

6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then fry shallots in 2 batches, stirring frequently and being careful not to burn, until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove shallots with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt immediately.

Chicken, Pinto Beans and Green Chile Soup

Serves 8

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 (4 ounce) cans diced green chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 (16-ounce) cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

Heat the oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, oregano, coriander, cumin and cayenne to pan; sauté 2 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes, chicken broth, green chiles, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Add chicken and beans; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Taste and reseason with salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls: top with a little grated cheese and sour cream.

Broccoli, Bacon and Cheddar Chowder
Picture a ski chalet, four feet of fresh powder, brilliant sunshine and lots of hungry skiers. You’re the hero of the day because you’ve made this soul warming soup.
Serves 6
8 slices bacon, chopped 8
2 tbsp unsalted butter 25 mL
1 onion, finely chopped 1
2 tbsp all-purpose flour 25 mL
1/2 tsp salt 2 mL
Dash cayenne pepper Dash
3 cups milk 750 mL
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock 500 mL
12 oz red skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm), diced 375 g
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded 500 mL
1 tbsp all-purpose flour 15 mL
1 tsp hot pepper sauce, if desired 5 mL
2 10 oz (300 g) frozen box chopped broccoli, thawed 2
1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate and reserve. Pour off all but 2 tbsp (25 mL) of the fat.
2. Add the butter and onion and cook for 6 minutes or until softened. Add the flour and cook, stirring for another 2 minutes or until foamy.
2. Whisk in the salt, cayenne pepper, milk and chicken stock and cook the mixture until it becomes smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
3. In a bowl, toss the cheddar with the flour to coat.
3. Stir in the cheese, a handful at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. Add in the hot pepper sauce if using. Add the thawed broccoli and stir to heat. Do not boil. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
4. Ladle the soup into heated bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon.
Garden Vegetable Soup
No soup cookbook would be complete without a vegetable soup recipe. That said, we encourage you to forget the recipe and use whatever is in season, on sale, or just hanging out in your fridge. Feel free to make this soup your own, just keep in mind that heartier vegetables should go in first, so they can cook longer, and more tender vegetables should go in last to avoid mushy veggie syndrome.
Serves 6-8
2 tbsp unsalted butter 25 mL
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 15 mL
1 medium onion, chopped 1
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock 1.5 L
1 28 oz (794 g) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups carrots, sliced 1/4-inch thick 500 mL
2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces 500g
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced 500 mL
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels 500 mL
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 50 mL
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the stock and tomatoes, carrots and potatoes and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the corn and cook for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender. Stir in the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Ladle into heated serving bowls.
Variation: Light soups like this can be made into more of a meal with the additions of either Wild Mushroom Risotto Cakes (page xxx), Meatballs (page xxx) or something as quick and easy as purchased crab cakes.

December 18, 2009

Brie, Pistachio and Apricot Phyllo Bites

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith

Brie, Pistachio and Apricot Phyllo Bites

Some dishes are just naturally jolly, and this buttery, flaky, cheesy treat certainly fits into that category. Phyllo dough, buttered and wrapped around small bites of gooey brie and a dollop of dried apricots, chopped pistachios held together with apricot preserves are baked until golden brown and crispy and served with an easy dipping sauce made of reduced apricot nectar and rum. These little treasures are just the thing to make ahead and keep frozen in the likely event that unexpected company shows up on your door this holiday season.

Kitchen Counter Point- Make sure you thaw your frozen phyllo dough in the refrigerator.  If you thaw your phyllo on the counter, it tends to collect condensation inside the package which will make your dough too moist with a tendancy to tear as you pull the layers apart.

Makes 40 pieces

Dipping Sauce
1 cup apricot nectar
1/4 cup white rum

1/2 cup natural (green) pistachios , finely chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, very finely chopped
1/3 cup apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon salt

16 phyllo sheets
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

8 ounces brie (rind removed) and cut into 40 ½-inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

1. Cook the apricot nectar and rum in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the mixture has reduced to 1/4 cup. Remove the apricot sauce from the heat and reserve.

2. In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine the pistachios, apricots, preserves and salt.

3. Remove the phyllo from the package, unroll it onto a workspace and immediately cover it with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Cover the plastic wrap with a damp towel to weigh it down and prevent the air from drying out the pastry. You must work quickly when making the layers and recover the pastry as soon as possible.

4. Carefully remove one sheet of phyllo dough and lay it out on a work surface. Brush the sheet with the melted butter and lay a second sheet on top of the first. Brush again with the melted butter. With a pizza cutter or a sharp knife cut the phyllo into 5 3″x9″ strips. Lay 1 cheese cube, a teaspoon of apricot/pistachio mixture on the short end of each strip. Fold the phyllo over the filling to form a triangle or as you would fold a flag and continue to fold leaving a seam on the bottom of the triangle. Brush the triangle with melted butter and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling leaving about 1/2-inch between triangles. (The triangles may be frozen at this point and then transferred to freezer bags for storage up to 3 weeks. They may be baked off frozen. Just add a few minutes to the baking time.)

5. Bake the triangles for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Serve hot or room temperature.

6. Serve the apricot nectar/rum mixture on the side as a dip.

Make-ahead: The phyllo bites can be assembled and frozen, uncooked in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once frozen, they can be transfered to a ziplock bag and kept for up to 1 month in the freezer. Bake as directed.

November 26, 2009

Texas Pecan Pie

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith


Something to be very thankful for! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Texas Pecan Pie

Makes One 9-inch pie

1 deep dish pie crust-unbaked
1 cup light brown sugar 250 mL
3 large eggs 3
1 cup light corn syrup 250 mL
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted 45 mL
2 tsp vanilla extract 10 mL
1/4 tsp salt 1 mL
1 cup finely chopped pecans 250 mL
1 cup whole pecans 250 mL

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll the flaky pastry on floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch round cake pan with 1-1/2-inch high sides. Trim to align with pan edges. Freeze 15 minutes.
2. Combine the sugar, eggs, corn syrup, butter, vanilla and in a large bowl. Add in the chopped pecans and mix until just combined. Pour into crust. Arrange the whole pecans decoratively on the top.
3. Bake pie until set, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool.

November 18, 2009

The Pie Alternative-Pumpkin Pecan Bars

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith

Pumpkin Pecan Bars

Don’t get me wrong, I love pie. I love to look at pie. I love to smell pie. I love to eat pie. What I don’t love is to make pie.  Even though I make a mighty fine pie. I know, this time of year, with Thanksgiving looming, being down on pie is culinary heresy. The fact is, it’s a mess. I don’t mind the filling, but the crust is another matter. Now please don’t send me your favorite recipe for pie pastry. I’m sure it’s great, but I already make a good pie pastry. I just hate to do it. It’s an added step that only creates havoc in my kitchen. Why can’t I be one of those adorably perky pastry chefs on TV that can toss their bench flour onto the work surface with such accuracy that nary a speck lands on anything but the intended area? (Those of you that know me are no doubt thinking “adorably perky’ was the deal breaker in that last sentence. On a good day I might be adorable, but perky? Hmmmm…) My bench flour ends up all over the floor, the dog, the kids, and yes, the counter, which then takes a ten step process to buff back to it’s previously shiny state. Not worth it…unless it’s a holiday (next week’s post-Texas Pecan Pie) or someone’s broken heart can only be consoled with something deliciously golden, round and flaky.

But what does one do when the need for something sweet, spicy and pumpkin arises? One turns to the incredibly easy and absolutely delectable Pumpkin Pecan Bar. This dense, moist and aromatically cakey bar is just the thing for when you feel the need to bring a little fall into your kitchen. And the best part is that they can be done in a snap. Packed with pumpkin, spices and crunchy pecans, these versatile treats are just as wonderful on a Thanksgiving table as they are in a lunchbox.

Kitchen Counter Point- When I’m baking with nuts, unless the nuts are going to sit right on top and be exposed to the full force of heat from the oven, as is the case with pecan pie, I always toast them first. This brings out the full flavor of the nut and takes whatever you’re baking to new heights.

Pumpkin Pecan Bars

Makes 24 bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4cup unsalted butter
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13-inch x 9-inch baking pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add in the pumpkin and stir to combine. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely. Cut into 24 squares. Dust lightly with the powdered sugar and serve.

October 8, 2009

Crispy Whole Wheat Penne with Roasted Vegetables, Feta Cheese and Pine Nuts

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Meredith


OK, I know summer is over and fall is upon us (making a winter a forgone conclusion), but even in my Minnesota markets there are a few local eggplants and zucchini to be had, and no better way to have them than in this dish.

If you’ve ever tried the crispy noodle cakes at your local Asian restaurant, you know how wonderful crispy pasta can be. With that in mind, we set about finding a way to use this technique in some of our other favorite pasta dishes. For this recipe, we sauté penne pasta until it’s browned and combine it with roasted eggplant, zucchini and cherry tomatoes for a delicious dish you’ll want to sneak back down for in the middle of the night. Just repeat after us “any food I eat in my nightgown by the light of my refrigerator doesn’t count”.

Kitchen Counter Point: This recipe works beautifully with almost any roasted vegetable. In late fall I like to substitute the summer vegetables with roasted leeks, mushrooms and butternut squash. Goat cheese and toasted walnuts are also lovely with the crispy pasta.

Serves 4

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz penne
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 450º F and start 6 quarts of water boiling in a large stockpot.

Drizzle the 1/4 cup of olive oil in equal amounts onto two large baking sheets.

Divide the vegetables between the two pans, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat with the oil. Place the pans in the oven and roast for about 15-20 minutes or until very tender and browned.

Meanwhile, when the water comes to a boil, stir in 2 tablespoons of salt. Cook the penne in the boiling water until it’s al dente. (Begin checking for doneness after 8 minutes of cooking. Bite down on the pasta and look for a tiny white dot in the center of the noodle. It should be firm, but not hard.) Drain the pasta into a colander, shaking assertively to remove as much of the water as possible.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add half of the pasta. Sauté the pasta, stirring frequently to ensure even browning, until the penne becomes a crispy, golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the pasta to a large, warm serving bowl and set aside. Repeat with the second half of the pasta.

In the serving bowl, add the remaining sautéed pasta, roasted vegetables, feta cheese and pine nuts. Toss together to combine.

Taste to correct the seasonings and serve.

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