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Mulled Wine - Perfect Drink for a Holiday Season



We have many beautiful holidays a head of us, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. For these occasions, nothing is too beautiful. Once a year, one can indulge in an accumulation of crystal, silver, china, an abundance of light and reflections, without fear of criticism. But as always, good taste will keep the display within bounds. A successful holiday party can be an enchanted memory for a whole year.

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Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese with Shrimp - Perfect Comfort Food

Macaroni and Shrimp 1

People ask me all the time how I arrange my food when I photograph it. Most of the time I am thinking about how it is going to look, imagining different backgrounds with all kinds of plates, bowls and cutlery. I am thinking about the flowers or dry leaves or herbs I would love to use in my sets, the colors I would need and which of them would be fitting for that specific dish. This usually takes me about a couple of days, then, when I have it all clear in my mind, I proceed.

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Autumn Pear Cake with Cinnamon and Walnuts



This Pear Cake recipe glows with the golds, a bright yellows, sparkling oranges and warm browns of the season. It features pears, cinnamon, walnuts and the warmth of my heart.

"No spring, nor Summer Beauty bath such grace,
As I have seen in one Autumnall face".

John Donne

3 Comments

Roasted Beet Risotto with Glazed Carrots and Fresh Dill



Autumn is one of my favorite seasons - not just all the dawns of autumn, nor the shorter, cooler days, but the evenings as well. Soft, sad evenings when shadows are lengthening and leaves beginning their transformations through gold, red and yellow to brown. I love the rustling as they fall and the sudden gusts of wind and dust. There is a wistful, mellow feeling in the air during autumn which makes us pause and take stock, beckoning us to reflect a little on our lives. Mornings when it is good to go mushrooming, and pick figs; to invite friends over for a long breakfast; and to experiment with some new dishes in the kitchen using some of the tawny autumn fruits and vegetables.

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Oat Bran and Nuts Cookies with Dry Cherries and Chocolate Mushrooms - Have a Little Fun!



Nothing can compare with a homemade cookie for bringing a touch of pleasure to a coffee break or tea-time. These tempting cookies are quick, easy, and satisfying to make. You can easily vary the ingredients to suit your taste, I added the dry cherries, you may add more nuts, chocolate chips or peanut butter - the possibilities for inventiveness when making cookies are endless.

Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 1 Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 2

Oat Bran & Nuts Cookie Mix contains stone ground whole wheat flour, brown sugar, oat bran, rolled oats, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. These full - bodied cookies are packed full of flavor, and they take only 15 minutes to make.

Makes about 18 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 Tbsp dry cherries
  • 1/3 cup oil or melted butter
  • 2 1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill Oat Bran & Nut Cookie Mix
  • chocolate mushrooms (product of Japan), optional, you can find them in Asian food market

Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 4

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, just mix together all ingredients until blended. Spoon onto the prepared sheets, spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart, and bake until they are puffed and golden brown around the edges, 12-15 minutes.

Using a metal spatula, move the cookies onto the wire rack and let cool completely.


Tip: If you like to use chocolate mushrooms, you need to decorate your cookies while they are warm and soft.

Oat Bran Healthy Cookie 5

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Shrimp Etouffée - Spicy, Salty, Delicious!



The name Etouffée refers to "smothering" the seafood with a heavy sauce. This method of cooking has its roots in Creole cuisine, and if you take the time to prepare this dish properly you will be very proud of your Creole skills.

Shrimp Etouffee 1

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. peanut oil
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 green sweet bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. whole basil leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. whole thyme leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp Tabasco
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and uncooked
  • cooked rice for serving

Directions:

Heat a large Dutch oven and add the oil and flour. Toast this to a peanut-butter-colored roux. This should take about 10 minutes over medium heat. Be careful not to burn this. Stir often.

Add the yellow onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Saute for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the tomato paste, followed by the broth and wine. Stir constantly until this mixture thickens. Add the remaining ingredients, except the shrimp, and rice. Simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes.

Add the shrimp and simmer for 15-20 minutes, uncovered.

Serve over cooked rice. This is also great with Zucchini Tian or Corn Pudding.


Shrimp Etouffee 4

18 Comments

Lemon Cake with Cranberries and Lemon Icing



Cranberries are native North American fruit with relatives growing wild in the bogs and marshes of Northern Europe. When the Pilgrims arrived in America, they were instructed in extensive use of the cranberry by the Native Americans. The Indians ate cranberries raw and cooked, and pounded them into pemmican with meat and fat for use during the winter. The mashed fruit was used on wounds to draw out poisons and infections, and the berries where used for dye in making rugs and blankets. We assume that the North American Indians brought cranberries to the first Thanksgiving dinner, since the fruit would have been plentiful at that time. Among the Delaware tribe in New Jersey, the berries were known as the symbol of peace, and Chief Pakimintzen, who distributed cranberries often at tribal peace feasts, came to be known as "Cranberry Eater."

I can't imagine winter holidays without cranberry dish on a table!

Lemon Cranbbery Cake 1 Lemon Cranbbery Cake 5

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (for the cake and decoration)

For the glaze:
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice 
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • red food coloring (optional)

Lemon Cranbbery Cake 4

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour a 1-lb. loaf pan.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Set this aside as well.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until fully incorporated.

Reduce mixer speed and alternatively beat in 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/2 of sour cream mixture, and repeat, ending with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Beat until blended and smooth, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir in one cup of cranberries (save some for serving).

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes, until top springs back when lightly pressed or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the bread from the oven and transfer the pan to a wire rack. Cool completely before icing.

For the glaze, whisk together lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar until there are no lumps. If you like you can add a red coloring for the color or cranberry juice. Drizzle over cooled cake.


Lemon Cranbbery Cake 3

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Portobello Mushrooms in Curried Coconut Milk Sauce over Pumpkin Puree



A little history about pumpkins from "the Frugal Gourmet Cooks American"

"We received the gift of the yellow gourd from the Indians, of course. When European explorers hit the New World they found the Native Americans eating all kinds of squashes, but pumpkin was a favorite. The white men thought the pumpkin to be a form of giant melon. They were partly right, as the pumpkin belongs to the family Cucurbitaceae, which also includes cucumbers, gherkins, and melons. The wild ancestor of the grate orange vegetable goes back to the Aztecs, Incas, and Mayan peoples, who enjoyed eating the rich seeds. The pumpkin spread north and was common by the time of European exploration, and the seekers of New World took the squash back to Europe with them. But it remains an American vegetable, absolutely American.

The uses that we found for pumpkin in the old days where wonderfully varied and formed a basic part of our diet. The pumpkin was among the most common foods of the settlements and an old verse proves their indispensability:

For portage, and puddings, and custards, and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies. 
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon;
If it were not for pumpkins, we should be undoon."

Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 2

There is something exciting about food cooked in coconut milk. Typically, the effect comes from the edition of several assertive spices - such as coriander, cumin, and cardamom - in conjunction with this rich liquid. Ginger and hot peppers are added to give zest and dimension.

Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 3

Hint: Save the pumpkin seeds for the kids! Wash the seeds and dry them. Place them in a large heated frying pan along with some olive oil, and toast until they begin to show a few very tiny brown spots on the husk. Add a bit of salt and cool. These are great snacks and they are good on salads or in soups.

Ingredients:

For the mushroom sauce:

  • 1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeños or any hot chiles of your choice 
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom 
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 pound baby portobello mushrooms (or any other variety)
  • sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, finely chopped

For the pumpkin puree:
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 Tbsp. butter (optional)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

For the roasted pumpkin:
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 1

Direction: 

For the mushroom sauce:
Place the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chiles, and sauté for another minute. Add the curry, coriander, cardamom, and cumin and stir for another minute. Add the mushrooms and the coconut milk and stir well. Simmer for 15 minutes.Remove from the heat when thickened. Season to taste and add the cilantro.

For the pumpkin puree:
Bring about 3 quarts (or more if need it to cover the pumpkin) of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the butternut squash, cover, and cook until the squash is soft when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain the squash , place in a food processor, and proceed until well pureed. Add the milk and blend until the mixture is smooth. Place the puree in a saucepan and reheat, stirring. Add salt and pepper to taste and keep it warm.

For the roasted pumpkin:
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Spread the diced pumpkin out on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Roast until all the cubes are cooked through and golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Evenly divide the warm butternut puree among plates. Arrange the coconut mushrooms sauce in the middle, top with roasted cubes of pumpkin. Serve immediately.


Mushrooms in Coconut Milk 4

16 Comments

Salmon Soufflé and Scheurebe



This lovely dish can be served year-round, for lunch or dinner. Your guests will be impressed with this Salmon Soufflé on a chilly October evening, as it is rich and warming.

Salmon Souffle and Wine 1

I discovered Scheurebe wines from Germany recently. They are a good addition to Rieslings that we usually get from that region. Wine from Weingut Pfeffingen winery is especially delicious. My husband found a bottle at the "Last Bottle Deal" rack in our local wine store. That is the only way to get it locally without feeling guilty for paying the full price. He spoiled me with good wine and I like it. The freshness and crispiness of Rieslings combined together with the intense aromas of Scheurebe was a perfect pairing for the Salmon Soufflé that I made last night. We had an incredible evening full of romantic talks and many laughs.

Salmon Souffle and Wine 2 Salmon Souffle and Wine 5

Ingredients:

For the poached salmon:

  • 2 (about 12 oz.) skinned salmon fillet
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. dry white wine
  • 1 tsp thyme

For the soufflé:
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. shallots, chopped 
  • 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped 
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Gruyère cheese

Directions:

To poach salmon, fill medium shallow saucepan or skillet with enough water to cover about two-thirds of the salmon fillet. Bring water to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add the wine, thyme, salt, pepper and salmon, cook 10 minutes or until salmon just begins to flake. Remove salmon from poaching water and cool. Flake into bite-sized pieces.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400°F. Get ready 4-6 ramekins, I didn't grease mine.

Melt the butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until translucent. Whisk in flour, and season with pepper and salt. Gradually whisk in milk in steady stream. Reduce heat to low and continue whisking until smooth. Simmer, stirring occasionally about  5 minutes or until sauce is very thick. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in egg yolks until smooth and creamy. Whisk in parsley and dill and let cool slightly. Gently stir in cheese and salmon.

Place egg whites in a large bowl and beat at medium-high speed until stiff but moist peaks form.

Stir one-fourth of the beaten egg whites into salmon mixture. Carefully fold in remaining egg whites. Divide mixture among ramekins and bake 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F. Continue baking 15 to 20 minutes or until soufflé is puffy and golden brown, and wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Serve immediately.


Salmon Souffle and Wine 4

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