Tuesday, April 10, 2012

One Thing Led To Another-itis

Does this ever happen to you? You make a list; you have the best of intentions but get derailed by the smallest of things, a phone call, a sunny day, something shiny?


I so meant to write you over the winter but I am guilty of One Thing Led To Another-itis. A thoroughly relaxing vacation set the tone that I could not escape from and took the last few months to catch up with friends, museum hop, stroll the NYBotanical Gardens Orchid Exhibit, be with family and revamp my catering menus. Not having much of a winter here in NY had me gardening in February and March and I can use the garden as a daily diversion, but I already see that the lack of rain and snow is going to lead to a tough year in the vegetable patch.

I am not complaining, this time off has been rejuvenating and I frankly needed it. Looks like 2012 is going to be a terrific year for business, and I have restaffed and revamped and now we are chomping at the bit. The first event of the spring season had us back at where my past post put us, my favorite treasure, The Katonah Museum of Art.

Rising Dragon: Contemporary Chinese Photography is the exhibit. We were busy doing our do but I was listening to the docent tell the gathering that the introduction of the internet into China in 1997 unlocked the world to a waiting populace who were eager for expression. The artists embraced technology and quickly came up to speed with techniques and advances, meeting, and in some instances surpassing, what is happening in this art form globally.

This exhibit ironically related to Walter Wick exhibit we did back at the end of January at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic, an artist who works in this modern form of photography that creates scenes, manipulates images with the resulting work that is more real than reality while becoming dream like in its intensity.

The Walter Wick exhibit was the first time I actually realized what I was looking at in this new digital form of expression and was fortunate to speak with the artists involved in the model and scene making and Walter Wick himself. Learning about the explosion of art coming from China and realizing how a suppressed society does not have an outlet to create, the toll that takes on the individual as well as the society was a new thought for me. With Walter Wick, like the title suggests, I felt like someone had opened my childhood mind’s attic, my memories of stories, toys, of play. With Rising Dragon I could not escape the fantasy; you could literally see the mind unleashed. Contemporary art is always exciting. Love it or hate it, it reflects the world and its current state. To the nay sayers I want to remind them that many of the artist’s works considered classic now were hated, even despised, at the time they were made. Contemporary art is, in many ways, seeing the future.

Speaking of future, it's sunny out, the lake is sparkling and the phone is ringing...I smell diversion....

The Katonah Museum- Katonah, NY
http://www.katonahmuseum.org/
Rising Dragon: Contemporary Chinese Photography
March 25 - September 2, 2012

The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, CT
http://brucemuseum.org/
Walter Wick: Games, Gizmos and Toys in the Attic
January 28, 2012 - April 21, 2012

Thursday, December 8, 2011

NY NY at the Katonah Museum of Art. So nice we went back thrice.

This has been an amazing season here at CBFF and one of my biggest pleasures has been catering at the jewel box that is the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY. Regular readers have seen numerous posts of our work there and due to the laser vision of the curators every exhibit is fresh and always exciting.



This exhibit had us there for two corporate events, one for architects in black tie; they looked so very smooth, so very New York, as well as one for BNY/Mellon’s Wealth Management Group. The third event was a “Feast Your Eyes” luncheon which brings in the modern version of ladies who lunch. Busy women, working women, philanthropic women, women who need a brief respite from their hectic lives to eat a delicious lunch and take a brief tour to refuel their souls so they can carry on during this hectic time of year for women everywhere. (Tell me, would ANY holiday happen without us?)


A few of the ladies at Feast Your Eyes commented on the salad dressing which is my spin on Julia Child's Basic Vinaigrette. So here it is along with variations and suggestions and way too much to say.  And by the way...giving the gift of membership is a wonderful thing to do for both the recipient and this museum....  Just a suggestion, the link is at the end of the post!


BASIC VINAIGRETTE


Learning the 3 to 1 rule of vinaigrette is really all you need to know, the rest is window dressing!

NOTE: I make enough dressing to store in a jar in the refrigerator for easy use. The amounts are never measured with standard devices but rather by eye and hand. I truly encourage you to do the same. The tactile relation between food and cook is, in my opinion, essential to truly good cooking.

Equipment Needed:

  • Food Processor or Hand Held Immersion Blender

Ingredients:

• ½ onion or about ½ cup chopped
• ½ cup of good Sherry Vinegar
• 1 ¼ - 1 ½ cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I use a 2/3, 1/3 mix of good olive oil (2/3) and outstanding olive oil (1/3)
• Heaping Tbs. of Dijon Mustard
• 1 tsp. Kosher Salt- or to taste
• ½ tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper- or to taste
• 1 – 2 TBS. Spike*

*a blend of dried, pulverized vegetables sold in health food stores since 1925.

1. In food processor, puree onion.
2. Add Dijon and all dry spices
3. Add Vinegar
4. Slowly add oil.
5. Taste and adjust. Try to achieve a true balance of tastes, where neither the vinegar nor the oil stands out.
6. Transfer to a jar, shake well before using and sometimes I find it helpful to go into the jar with a spoon so the onion and dried seasonings are evenly distributed

VARITATIONS ON THE THEME.

1. You can switch out the vinegars to be ANY vinegar to complement your menu, the season or preferences.
2. Adding a squeeze of citrus or a rasp of the citrus zest can brighten the dressing.
3. Grain mustard… This change I particularly like with heartier greens like Kale and Spinach.
4. Herbs! Any and all work but will shorten the lifespan in the frig
5. Electric went out? (Oh please, here in the Northeast that is becoming commonplace so it’s back to learning how Grandma did it!) Just use a jar to shake it all up in. Makes the 3 to 1 ratio easy to determine and grate your onion in, or leave it out. There is always the bowl and whisk too…but I’m lazy!

Source:  Julia Childs Matering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1  Page 94

http://www.katonahmuseum.org/

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How The Chef Stole Christmas

A very dear friend and talented writer just sent me a text to brighten my day as I head into holiday madness. The first event of the season is tonight and I promise that come January, I will be posting like a mad woman. Till then, a laugh from Laura!


How the Chef Stole Christmas


There was slicing and dicing and frying and baking,


there was packing and trimming and backs that were breaking,


even Rex stood in awe at the marvels in making.


So she worked and she worked and she still worked some more


to get all her goodies to fly out the door!



I don’t exactly inspire poetry so Laura, THANK YOU!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stop Genetically Engineered Food

The agribusiness in this country has hijacked your market basket. When confronted with the business practices of such giants like Monsanto, Cargill and Arthur Daniels Midland, three of the big players who influence EVERYTHING you eat and you see how we, the public, have let a good amount of the control leave our hands, it is time to keep the little we have left. Two documentaries that helped inform me about the far reaching tentacles are : "Food Inc." http://www.foodincmovie.com/ and "Dirt. The Movie" http://www.dirtthemovie.org/


I copied and pasted the text below. This is important and while I do not agree with everything Change.org proposes, this one hits home, literally. Take a minute, read the text then hit the link and sign and leave a comment which I neglected to do. The last sentence states if you do not leave a comment the FDA does not consider your signature important enough to count.


http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-the-fda-to-label-gmos

Why this is Important

In a country that labels everything from cosmetics to cleaning agents, it’s surprising that there are no laws in the U.S. requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods. Yet 93% of Americans believe GE foods should be labeled.



We don’t think that’s right.

Many other countries including Japan, Australia, the European Union and even China require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Tell the FDA you have a right to know what’s in your food.

Healthy Child Healthy World has joined an effort with hundreds of organizations representing millions of Americans called “Just Label It: We Have A Right to Know.” We’ve petitioned the FDA to demand that products that use ingredients produced with genetic engineering be required to disclose this information on the label.

Please sign-on AND LEAVE A COMMENT! Without a personalized comment, the FDA won't count you as a supporter. THANK YOU!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sophisticated Autumn






Posted by Picasa
A meet and greet for their children’s classmate’s parents.  We took our favorite wheatgrass display and added illuminated floating white pumpkins, white phalaenopsis orchids, a few gigantic sugar pine cones and a touch of bittersweet to make this display.  To lend to the autumnal feel one of the hors D’oeruve served was an Orange Marinated Roast Turkey breast with an Apple and Cornbread stuffing with dried Cranberries and moistened with Cider laced Cognac Sauce served in Asian spoons.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Beautiful Evening in West Hartford

What a fabulous evening last Saturday was.  The room was dazzling, resplendent with giant white Calla Lilies, white Phalaenopsis Orchids kissed with the barest bit of yellow in their throats, bronze Cymbidium Orchids, white Roses with the slightest hint of pink through them.  Candles, mirrors,” floating” centerpieces, “ghost” chairs on tables clothed in brown faux suede for the adults and a sophisticated lounge for the children and the well heeled guests in blinding jewels and shoes to die for.  This hostess and her mother put their stamp on every aspect of this evening.  I think the menu and the photos speak for themselves.
                                               Adult Stationary Display
Vegetable Satays with Thai Peanut Pesto
Chimichurri Beef Skewers with Chimi Dip
Japanese Sirloin & Scallion Rolls
Portobello Satay with a Rosemary Ginger Dipping Sauce
Skewered Tandoori Chicken with a Cucumber Raita
Carrot Flowers, Radish Roses, Celery Curls and Green Bean Wands

Passed Adult Hors D'oeuvre

                            Watermelon Gazpacho Shots with Minted "Pearls"
Smoked Duck in Chinese Pancakes with Hoisen Sauce
Mini Kugel Bites
Fresh Mozzarella & Grape Tomato Bites with Aged Balsamic
Sushi Skewers

Plated First Course
Salmon Roulade with Gazpacho Cream and Paddlefish Caviar garnish

White Corn Agnolotti with White Truffle Oil and Frizzled Sweet Potato
Baby Greens, Shaved Fennel, Grapes & Dill in Sherry Vinaigrette
Asiago Crouton
A thin slice of Sourdough Ficelle toasted with Asiago Cheese

Plated Main Course
Bistro Steak Goan Style served on full bodied greens with Black Mustard Seed and Tamarind Sauce
Roasted Branzini with Orange Beurre Blanc and garnished with Mango & Hazelnuts
Sautéed Julienne Carrots, Yellow Squash & Haricot Verte
Sweet Green Pea Risotto with Pea Shoots & Mascarpone
Whole Grain Parmesan Crouton
Thinly sliced whole grain Ficelle, toasted with Parmesan Cheese
Bistro Tables for Cocktails
For the tiny tots....
Before the lights went low...

Basking

Room design was Brenda LaManna from Damselfly Designs, photography was by Geoffrey Tischman and of course food service and event planning by Charlotte Berwind Fine Foods, Inc.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Relish the Relish

Hurricane Irene came and left a mess here. We lost power for several days, trees came down, basements flooded, fortunately not ours, and I have to say a bit of chaos ensued. We really are a spoiled lot. When the local radio station announced dry ice would be available at a nearby firehouse HUNDREDS of people showed up to sign up for the ice. The ice finally came at the end of the day but only 50 bags. Anarchy. Other towns and states had it much worse, I just heard from one of my chefs that she just got her power back on, 7 days later, and there are still pockets without so we were lucky at my house. No losses thanks to a generator, time to read because the computer was down and enough time to catch up after all was said and done. And what did I learn from all of this? I now know what the sound of civilization is…a flushing toilet.


The garden took a little hit with the wind and all so I collected everything and set to preserving. The two relishes I produced are from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Blue-Book-Guide-Preserving/dp/0972753702/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1313420601&sr=8-2

Dill Relish for Hamburgers and Sweet Pickle Relish for Hot Dogs. This book was the one I started with 20 years ago and the one I still go to after looking at all the other “fancier” books on preserving and canning. The recipes and procedures are easy to follow and once you have your canning legs beneath you, you see where there is room for interpretation. A very inexpensive book to begin canning with which is good since the jars are so damned expensive!

A note on pickle crisp: Almost impossible to find –evidently Ball is retooling this ingredient although they mention it constantly in the book, it is virtually unavailable as of summer 2011- but I discovered that the Calcic I use in my molecular gastronomy is the same thing. Ask around for calcic is the takeaway.

I am notorious for not thoroughly reading the recipe’s directions carefully until I begin so let me hip you to this time saving fact in relish making. Cut up (food processor) your ingredients and let them sit 2 hours before you actually can! The vegetables need to be brined and to sit, and then you can get your jars ready and the water boiling.

I also put up pickled grape tomatoes as they took the worst of it. A nice thing to put on your holiday relish trays I think. Happy canning and GOOD NIGHT IRENE.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Double Solitaire: The Surreal Worlds of Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy at the Katonah Museum of Art

We are bracing ourselves here in New York for Hurricane Irene; I confess that I LOVE a good storm, I give thanks that we have no brides, hostesses, museums, corporate clients and guests to worry about traveling in the rain and wind this weekend. With the unrelenting news coverage, knowing how much of our area is covered with coastline and that summer has everyone’s beach home open and in full swing I think that we forget how much work is involved with battening down the gems of our region…the museums, outdoor sculpture exhibits (thinking StormKing here- what Do they DO?), zoos, the botanical gardens… All the while these folks need to attend to their own properties.

Two week ago, under yet another threatening sky, we were the caterer for the August Second Saturday gathering at the Katonah Museum of Art. This is a cocktail party that utilizes the museums beautiful sculpture garden and brings the community in to enjoy the museum, an interactive art experience, music and food during the summer months. We have fun with coordinating our displays and passing trays to the exhibit and in the past the inspiration came easy. Surrealism and food. Aside from Dali’s melting landscapes I was at a loss and melting food…in August it happens anyway…this was going to be a tricky one.

The moment of inspiration came at the awe inspiring Alexander McQueen exhibit. The exhibit which proved his genius and that his collections were so much more than clothes had a headdress which dripped down the head of the wearer, and that coalesced with Joseph Wheelwright’s Tree Figures that are on the south lawn and sculpture garden.


We debuted one of the head’s for the winners of our donated auction item, a catered cocktail party for 10 in the museums center hall, and then to the crowd of 100 for Second Saturday. Much to my delight the Bedford Record placed a photo of one of the heads on their front page and while no credit was given to our company, I did find it flattering. Art was my first desire but the need to make a living trumped that and through a winding road of trial and error I found my way into the culinary arts and used that as my medium.


Maybe it’s the rain that has begun to fall that is making me more introspective but I have found “The Process” that creative people use for inspiration is really the foundation for all good decisions. Take in all information, use all your senses, try not to think too hard on a decision and let these influences come together in an organic fashion. I am so looking forward to this next phase of my life where I can play inside of art again, thank you Katonah Museum!



http://www.katonahmuseum.org/exhibitions/

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Tomatoes and Panzanella

Here we are at August 20th and the sugar maple leaves have begun to turn color ever so slightly, before the fall takes hold it is time to get into your vegetable patch or the local farmers market and get busy.  Tomatoes are my reason for living in the summer.  Besides Tomato Pie, eating them dusted with grey salt or sliced thickly between a good wheat bread and obscenely slathered with mayo, Panzanella is a must have at least three times a summer dish.  I used this recipe from Epicurious.com as my cheat base but added my own twists based on recipes I have gathered for years of this one dish.

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Panzanella-12529


Panzanella is a Tuscan salad that was born from economy and thrift. Yesterdays, or older, bread, an abundance of fresh summer tomatoes and a well stocked larder that contains full flavored olive oil choices and other preserved items like capers. Don’t forget to let your bread get stale, it is essential, toss this together in the morning after you have picked today’s harvest and let it sit.

I began with a round, crusty, well textured Tuscan bread that I removed the crust from and made large 1 ¼ - 1 ½ cubes, allowing them to dry for several days. I add chopped garlic, capers, more really good extra virgin olive oil. (I use a peppery olive oil from Spain, D.O.P. Gata-Hurdes from Fairway) and a Cabernet Vinegar. Toss, let sit at room temperature for a few hours. Toss again and serve on grilled romaine. Let the swooning commence.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Party Like It's Hot

We had some beauties this summer. A stand out was Geoffrey Morris’ of Litchfield Magazine threw a cocktail party in conjunction with their 50 Most Influential people which was held at the Arethusa Dairy Farm in Litchfield, CT. The Arethusa Dairy Farm
is owned by George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, president and vice president, respectively, of Manolo Blahnik in North and South America. They lived across the street from this parcel of land that looked like it was going to be swallowed up by developers. They stepped in, preserving this way of life, the quality of locally made milk, yogurt and cheese and the land itself. I will tell you that the cows are super models of the Bovine world and that is stated by a sign that is placed at the entrance of this immaculate barn which simply says, “The Cows in this barn are Ladies, treat them as such.”

http://arethusafarmdairy.com/

http://www.townvibe.com/Blogs/Litchfield/Posts-2011/A-Fly-on-the-Wall-at-Litchfields-Top-50-Most-Influential-People-Party/

Monday, August 15, 2011

Yellow Bean & Green Bean Salad


After all the preparation of July 4th I expected life to settle into a sleepy summer, not happening. Gratefully, the phone began to ring and kept the catering end of my life full steam ahead, combine that with the garden and then hubby was off for two weeks and wanted to go to the beach, I could not find 10 full minutes to sit and catch up.


Summer in the Northeast is a combination of everything but snow. We have had a heat wave with unforgiving heat and sun, torrential rains that included hail and one week of perfection. The garden, of course, sees it all and that plot too is seeing the gamut. Remember my saying back in June the best part is the planning? Truer words were never said. I am so glad I took picture every 7 to 10 days; I can look back to early July before the brown leaves of blight took hold. Blight is a fungus that once it takes hold of a plot of land is tough to get rid of. Blight caused the Great Potato Famine of Ireland and while we have some solutions now, this fungus will be with us till the end of times. I fight it tooth and nail but the potatoes succumbed after the first and only harvest for the 4th. The tomatoes are struggling to keep producing but 2 plants have bitten the dust. We have grasshoppers who like to take a bite out of the perfectly ripe fruit and beetles who just love leaves. The acorn and butternut squashes never set fruit. BUT! The corn is coming in, the cantaloupes look full, and cucumbers have made me into a one woman relish factory and the tomatoes….. I swoon.

During the brief time I had yellow and green beans I made a favorite salad whose recipe is below.


My Yellow & Green Bean Salad


Yield 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course salad.

This is sort of a green bean Panzanella….

• 3 cups mixed-colored string beans, trimmed and cut into 2” lengths and blanched
• 2 1/2 cups cut ripe tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1/3 cup pitted oil cured olives
• 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
• Sourdough Ficelle cut into ¼ “ rounds and dried in oven.

Toss all and let sit.

VARIATIONS:

Grill some romaine, place on top.

Add grilled Chicken, Shrimp or Salmon.

Add grilled Haloumi Cheese or cubed Feta



Wear your SEAT BELT

Please wear your seat belt.




My husband is an EMT and nurse and volunteers on the local ambulance. Friday night, around 10 p.m., a call came that there had been a bad crash on the nearby Interstate, while he was not on duty, he went. A car with 4 local girls was coming back from a ball game on the way to the diner, somehow, the car flipped over. The moon roof was open. Three of the girls were wearing seatbelts, one wasn’t.

The three girls who wore their seatbelts, while injured walked, I repeat walked away. A local lifeguard about to enter college. Pretty and loved by all. The funeral cortege just passed our home which faces the lake as they drove her around one last time while a soft rain fell.



Please, please, please wear your seatbelt.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Homegrown Potato Salad


Summer, where does the time go? I went to out to pull weeds one day and three weeks passed. In that time the garden had developed early blight which sent me into a tizzy being that ¾ of what was planted is susceptible. I will never plant the garden without pretreating for this nasty fungus again. Think I may have stemmed the tide but the thought of losing everything is not a good one.


After the events of June, I had what I thought was a week off for some commando gardening to find out we were hosting a July 4th party for some 11 friends in a mere 2 days. No problem, that’s what caterers do, right? Well, as you all know, when it’s your own home and garden a tiny bit of panic sets in. My home has that “lived in” look and I grew up with a mother whose philosophy is that if you are coming to see what kind of housekeeper I am you can keep on going. Did I mention one of the party guests would be my mother, who would be staying a few days?

So as I am dealing with the onset of early blight in the vegetable garden I set out to prepare for my guests, gathering up those extra chairs and making sure they are clean, pulling the July 4th decorations out of hiding, getting the room Mom will be staying in squared away, filling bins with all the flotsam and jetsam of my daily life to be stowed till the revelers go, beverages in, ice procured and I have to make a menu. I am fortunate, there is no question, with what I do for a living, so I went to my own freezer and frig, took inventory and made the menu and food for about 20 without hitting the stores.

The point is, before making a menu, look to see what you already have; chances are good you are more than halfway there. Pull out that vegetable drawer (s) and take a complete inventory, tweak your recipes and menu to include what you have. Have you begun my habit of tucking away odds and ends into the freezer? If you are organized and keep a list, pull it out, if you just shove them into the freezer like some people I know (me), take a good look, there is a gold mine in there of work you have already done and beautiful ingredients ready to be showcased.

The Menu:

  • Grilled Garlic Chicken
  • House Smoked Pork Loin
  • Hot Dogs (can it be the 4th without them?)
  • Newly harvested homegrown Fingerling Potato & Pea Salad
  • Sweet Potato, Carrot and Chickpea Salad in an Orange Pecan Dressing
  • Black Bean and Corn Salad
  • Watermelon and Mint
  • Homemade Pickled Jalapenos
  • Homemade Fennel Pickles
  • Cream Corn Scones with softened Butter
  • Brownies, Blondies and Pecan Bars
  • Ice Cream Bars from the Ice Cream man as we watched the fireworks over the lake

 My Favorite Potato Salad

Yield: 4 quarts or anywhere from 12-20 guests

This recipe came out of Bon Appetite so many years ago I have lost the copy of it and being that I am growing my own potatoes now, well, it has only become more of a favorite.

Prep Time: 30-40 minutes

Equipment:

• Pot to boil potatoes in
• Small mixing bowl
• Whisk
• Rubbermaid Spatula

Ingredients:

  • 3 -4 pounds Fingerling or Red Potatoes, scrubbed with skin on
  • ½ to 2/3 cup shelled Peas briefly cooked. (Frozen is perfectly acceptable)
  • Salt
  • 3/4 to 1  cup Hellmann’s Mayo
  • 1/3 cup good Dijon Mustard
  • Salt
  • White pepper
  • ¼ cup or more of chopped chives. Scallions may be substituted.

 Method:

1. Cook your peas and set aside or pull peas from freezer and run under lukewarm water.

2. Place potatoes in pot of cold water with enough salt to fill the cup you make with the palm of your hand about 2-3 Tablespoons.

NOTE: In harvesting my own potatoes, they came up in many sizes. Place the larger ones in first to cook a bit, then work your way down to the smallest ones to ensure you do not overcook the potatoes. The same size differential often happens with bags of potatoes purchased at the market. Cook according to size.

3. Stir occasionally to keep cooking even and with a skewer test for doneness. The potato should be easily pierced but still have a bit of resistance.

4. Drain and cut into ¾ to 1 inch chunks.

5. While potatoes are cooking whisk the mayo, mustard, salt and pepper together to make a creamy dressing.

a. When making dressing if you prefer more or less of a bite from the mustard, adjust amount of mustard. Same goes for mayo, some like it creamier than others.

6. Pour dressing over warm potatoes, correct seasoning.

If the salad is not to be eaten right away, cover everything and put in frig. Prior to serving, add peas and chives

Monday, June 13, 2011

Asian Noodle Soup for a not quite cold day

It’s been so hot here in the Northeast that today’s temps in the 60’s leaves me feeling like I want to pull out the cozy jammies and curl up with some soup. Soup must be one of my favorite things to make for my hubby and myself. It uses your odds and ends and is so personal and comforting, I know of few people who are not enticed by a steaming bowl of soup. I have the pea tendrils coming in and while I want a bowl of soup, I don’t want anything over powering so this Asian Noodle Soup fills the bill today.


I mentioned Ollie’s Noodle House a post or two ago and this easy and quick soup was inspired from their noodle bowls. There are a few ingredients in here that I always have on hand and if you do not have them that can be substituted but with a different effect. These are white Miso paste, a salty and rich paste that can be added to many soups, stews, sautés and is also the base to Japanese Miso Soup (you can sub more soy sauce), Sambel Olek, a hot Asian paste that can be stirred into almost anything and the Japanese Style fat rice noodles which are so fun to slurp down (you can sub regular vermicelli). The dish will be different than my Noodle Lunch Soup but I am sure it will be equally delicious.



Asian Noodle Lunch


Serves 2 -4 depending on hunger factor!
Approximately 20-30 minutes start to finish


EQUIPMENT:
• A pot. (Can it get easier than this?)


INGREDIENTS:
• 1 ½ quarts light broth (chicken or beef, canned may be substituted if need be)
• 2 slices peeled ginger
• 1 clove garlic
• 2 cups baby Bok Choy- sliced (I have substituted cabbage, Napa cabbage, Pea Tendrils or any vegetable that is similar in texture and taste …)
• 1 chicken cutlet – sliced thin (can substitute or add shrimp)
• 1 package Japanese style fat rice noodles
• 2 large Tablespoons white miso paste
• 1 -2 Tablespoons Soy sauce
• ½ block firm tofu (optional)
• 1 cup Mung Sprouts (and / or substitute Julienne carrots)
• ½ teaspoon Sambel Olek (or hot sauce)
• ¼ cup sliced scallions
• 2 Tablespoons ripped Cilantro


METHOD


1. While stock is coming to boil, add ginger and garlic. Let simmer a couple of minutes.
2. While broth is simmering slice Bok Choy and add to soup. Meanwhile slice your chicken breast.
3. Once greens are beginning to become tender in 3-4 minutes, add chicken breast.
4. Add noodles after 1-2 minutes.
5. Once noodles become tender, turn down heat, add miso, soy sauce, tofu, sprouts and Sambel Olek.
6. Ladle into bowls and garnish with scallions and cilantro.


NOTE: I leave the garlic whole and pull it out when serving along with the ginger.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Pea Tendrils

The tips of your pea plants are an amazing delicacy. While I am picking these from my garden you can find these marvels at Asian grocers. Purchase at least twice as much weight as you need because you will need to discard the lower tougher leaves and stalks. I know this sounds like a waste, if you can compost, do so, but using only the tenderest part of the tendrils is optimal.  The first time I tried these darlings I was with my pal Estelle and we were at Ollie’s Noodle Shop on 44th St. in the heart of the theatre district. As an aside Ollie’s is a great spot to pop into when hitting the theatre without making it “A NIGHT”. Great soups, stir fry’s, duck. Anyway, Estelle ordered one of the specials, this pea tendril stir fry and I crave it ever since.

Nutritionally, they are loaded with A, more C than blueberries, folic acid and caratenoids like beta carotene.

For cooking and experimenting you can treat the tendrils much like you would spinach. Saute’ them and place under a nice piece of broiled salmon cooked with a Sweet Chili Glaze like outlined on www.Epicurious.com. Add them to a Pho or Chinese Soup. Sauté them and add to an omelet or make them the way The Cialntropist does and use them as a base for an Orange, Feta and oil cured Olive Salad. http://cilantropist.blogspot.com/2011/02/pea-tendrils-have-you-tried-them.html    Sautéed with garlic (again, the garlic) and add your favorite pasta. I believe the key to these beauties is simplicity, so please try them and please experiment.

As for me, I am stir frying them with garlic & ginger and eating them with a bowl of steamed rice. Perfectly simple, perfectly heaven.


Garlic Ginger Stir Fried Pea Tendrils

EQUIPMENT:

  • Wok or sauté’ pan
  • Long handeled spoons
  • Large holed grater or microplane.
  • Spatter guard (if you have one)
 INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 Cups Pea Tendrils (triple washed to remove –sorry- garden bugs….organic has its price….)
  •  4 cloves garlic grated
  •  Thumb sized piece of peeled freshest ginger – grated
  •  Plain oil like Grapeseed, Safflower, Canola or even a light vegetable oil.
  •  Salt

 METHOD:

  1. Heat oil till wavy in appearance. If you can work quickly then grate the ginger into the oil and then the garlic. Stir a moment to release fragrance.
  2. Add your tendrils; being careful to avoid the popping of hot oil when water meets it (the spatter guard comes in handy here).
  3. Once tendrils are coated with ginger garlic oil, keep moving steadily till greens are adequately wilted.
  4. Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tomato Pie


Now with all this garden talk, you need something to make.

The 1987 cover of the Best of Gourmet was my first piece of food remembered porn. (There might have been a crusty stew pot on a cover of a Bon Appetite but I’ll look into that later) The recipe which was originated by Sara Moulton still makes me swoon a little every time I think of it. . I have made this recipe nearly every year since and of course, over time, it morphs into something that is a little yours but still mostly theirs.

The recipis long but I took a cue from my hero Julia Childs when writing a recipe. More explanation is better than less. The experienced cook can cut through the excess and the novice can feel comfortable everything has been explained.

Tomato Pie

Prep time including chilling of dough: 3 hours this includes:
        Baking time for crust: 20 ish minutes.
        Baking time for pie: 1 hour 15 minutes

Equipment:
• Food Processor
• Measuring Cups, wet and dry
• Measuring spoons
• Rolling Pin
• Long bladed Spatula
• Rubbermaid plastic spatula
• 2 Deep Pie Dishes
• Parchment or foil
• Pam
• Pie weights or rice/beans

Makes 2 large pies Each could feed 8 people.

For the pastry:
• ½ pound bacon – cooked and crumbled
• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and frozen
• 4 T. chilled vegetable shortening
• Up to 4T. Ice Water

For the filling:
• 6-8 large tomatoes, sliced 1” inch thick
• 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt plus more for sprinkling the tomatoes
• 2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves plus 3 sprigs for garnish
• 1 cup ricotta cheese
• 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
• ½ pound coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
• ¾ - 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Breadbrumbs

• Center of a good textured bread to make approximately 1 1/2 cups
• Parmesan Cheese
• Olive Oil
• S & P

For Assembly:
• ¼ cup shredded mozzarella
• Fresh breadcrumbs

DIRECTIONS:

Crust:
1. Bake off your bacon by lining a sheet pan with foil, place bacon in a single layer-
2. Combine the dry ingredients in the large bowl of your processor fitted with pastry blade (the plastic one you never use).
3. Pulse dry ingredients till mixed
4. Add the butter and shortening and pulse till mixture resembles corn meal or a grainy texture.
5. Add ICE COLD water a little at a time, using longer pulses, till mixture JUST holds together around the center the stem
6. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and with a firm motion, dump the mixture onto the plastic. Remove the blade. I then fold up the edges of the plastic which pushes the small bits into the dough. I try to keep this in an already round form, a little flattened out to help with the rolling out
7. Chill at least 1 hour. This can be done the day ahead
8. Sprinkle flour onto rolling surface and roll out dough. This dough should be somewhat easy to work with. Use a long bladed spatula or old flat cookie sheet to lift off of surface, slightly folding in half and transfer into pie dish. Crimp the edges onto the pie dish slightly going over the edge to keep this heavy crust from caving in on itself.
9. Chill for 1 hour. I have also left this at this point for a day.

BAKING SHELL:
1. Prick shell with a fork across bottom and up sides.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
3. Pam a double thickness of parchment or a single sheet of heavy aluminum foil, place pammed side down onto the crust and fill shell with weights or old uncooked dried beans and/or rice
4. Place shell in oven mid to lower third of oven. Lower oven to 325 degrees for 20 minutes
         a. Check on shell after 15 minutes to make sure to sides are staying up. If necessary, push the weights towards a possible cave in.
5. Remove weights once you see the shell has “set” and bake 8-10 minutes more or till lightly golden in color. Cool in pan. Can be made a day ahead at this point.

FILLING:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees if you made shells the day before if not once your shell is removed from the oven RAISE your oven to 350 degrees.
2. While your shell is baking and cooling slice tomatoes 1” thick BUT slice the ends off keeping them a little thinner. Lay thicknesses of paper towels or tea towels on sheet pans or cookies pans. Sprinkle with salt, lay tomato slices onto towels and top with more salt and more towels, place next pan on top of this pan and repeat.
         a. While the tomatoes are draining rotate the top pan to the bottom and so on so all tomatoes have weight on them at one point.
3. In the large bowl of the processor, chop basil, add eggs and pulse, add ricotta, salt, mozzarella, parmesan & pepper. Pulse till combined.

ASSEMBLY:
1.  Pat the tomato slices dry with paper towels.
2. Line the bottom of the shell with shredded mozzarella and about ½ inch cheese mixture top with thinner sliced tomato ends and press into cheese mixture.
3. Place more cheese mixture into shell to fill 2/3 – ¾ up sides
4. Arrange the remaining tomato slices in one layer, overlapping slightly, pressing gently into the cheese mixture. Fill center in a concentric pattern with halved slices.
5. Pam a length of aluminum foil to fit around the top crimped part of the crust and cover.
6. Brush the top LIGHTLY with olive oil and bake until the cheese mixture is set 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes if to be served hot. I prefer this served room temperature personally so cool to room temp. Garnish with reserved sprigs.

General Thoughts:

• This is for only the best summer tomatoes. Please do not bother with the hot house variety, wait for summer and go to your local farmers market or backyard!
• Making this on successive mornings can keep your house temperature down.
• I have made this with fat free cheeses and only egg whites, with super duper high end ricotta and the highest fat content cheese there is. With some fresh mozzarella, a little fresh oregano and parsley. My husband even requested one with red pepper flake which I do not recommend. The point is experiment; do not be afraid to use what is on hand.
• I always make two because one goes so darn quick.
• Make the dough ahead and freeze that so when the tomatoes come in you are good to GO!
• This does not freeze at all.

Bacon Tips:

Bake off your bacon by lining a sheet pan with foil, place bacon in a single layer-
You can squish it up a bit to fit more on the pan if needed. Bacon can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. Set your timers and keep checking. The difference between cooked bacon and burnt bacon is usually 1 minute! I save old egg crates to drain the bacon on.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Read the Sexy World over

Having just finished a marathon of 6 weeks of work coupled with getting the garden together I have a much needed week off. My scheduled coma. If I were anybody else I would spend this week lounging, catching up on past issues of Vanity Fair, playing toss with the dog and making dinner plans with friends. Not me. The first day was spent in the garden, oh how I love that little slice of earth, but I tend to garden like this was my last day on earth; EVERYTHING that needs to be done MUST be done. Crazy, I know, let’s take a peaceful pastime and turn it into another quest for perfection. Yesterday I ran a full day of errands (I did manage to squeeze in one of the best massages of my life), posted you and still was full of shplikis, Yiddish for nervous energy. I began to noodle around on the computer, came to the blog and started clicking on the things I probably should have a long time ago.



I found out that this blog, this blog that has only 16 registered followers who I thought was only read by a handful of friends and clients is read in 17 countries!


What?


Now at first, when I saw Russia and Iran there I figured these are places where people sit in rooms monitoring the world, a room like that phone company commercial with “Peggy” at the other end. I mean can you see some Iranian woman, in her home, sans chador, reading “What to do in Chappaqua?” How about her Russian counterpart planning her sons Bar Mitzvah and reading my “Top Ten Money Saving Tips? But then why not? I read blogs from all over the world, some I go back to, most of them are food related but all of them give me a feel for their daily life and their daily life is much like mine. We try to do the most for the people we love and squeeze some pleasure from the day if it’s possible.


Maybe.


Well it turns out the number one viewed page was titled “A Very Unsexy Post” which was about food safety but I suspect the word “sexy” brought in the bulk of the traffic. So I am going to rename everything past and going forward….Each title will have the word sex or sexy in it. My SEXY Garden Gate, A SEXY yet Appropriate Name, The SEXY Meaning of Life. You get the picture. Google Ads will flood me with business, I will become a household name, the Today Show will have me on and want to know, well who knows what they ever want to know. Fame. Fortune. THUD. That was me plummeting to earth. My point is I think the traffic came in for other …ahem…reasons…. I am going to track this particular post in months to come and to see if it is as I suspect, the smarmies looking for new ground.


For the curious, 2,791 people have viewed my blog in (and in order of readership) the US-as far as Alaska, Russia, Switzerland, Israel, Germany, Latvia, Iran, Netherlands, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Chili, Indonesia, South Africa, Denmark, France, Canada, Chinaand India just joined my list. Almost everyone uses Internet Explorer (2,029) and Windows (2,553) 11 of you use Linux and 17 use Netscape. Personally I do find this stuff fascinating.


I have enabled the blog to be translated into your own languages, something I had not done because NEVER saw the need to have it anything but English, I have 16 followers after all, and I know 15 of them and most of them became followers because I begged them to, and we speak the same language. This revelation of you on the other side of the globe reading this is stunning to me. And now that we are on this subject, write me, if this is indeed a place for food, parties and kvetching and we know women do this all over the planet, let’s talk about it.


After “The Unsexy Post” page, a whopping 675 views interest is in recipes so I am going to provide more Sexy recipes. I’m already getting sick of the sexy thing….


Write me.






To help translate some of my NY Yiddish you can use: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=shpilkis

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Garden Gate

I love to garden. Actually, I love to garden in the spring and early summer, when planting three kinds of beets makes sense, when every tomato plant is going to yield perfect, HUGE, juicy tomatoes, before the heat, too much rain, not enough rain, slugs, beetles, raccoons and (insert horror movie music and maybe a woman’s scream here) Blight.


Two years ago, my husband got the tomatoes in for me. I had purchased the plants right before Dad’s surgery and then everything went awry. Poetically, Blight hit our area that summer so the few tomatoes harvested were not that great and had the same results last year. Dad was a master gardener and Tomato Whisperer. His tomatoes were the most prolific, the largest and the most delicious. These are not the words of an adoring daughter; these are words one jealous gardener reluctantly says of another. I think my brother Charlie also has this innate gift that I so desperately want but alas, while I can get some results, they are meager when stacked against Dad’s. But still I try.


But THIS year dear friends, this year the newspapers are going to come to take photos, there will be an abundance of produce, so much that I’m going to give away the overflow. There will be a table at the end of the driveway, with a sign, that says "Free for the Taking"; beneath that table will be boxes of the overflow, so much will my garden give me! I am going to be a one woman answer to world hunger! OK. Now I have woken from this beautiful dream that I dream daily while looking at the 20 inch tomato plants, the seedlings emerging from this newly tilled soil, the shoots from the potatoes.


But this delusion is not all my fault. It is my husband’s fault.


Back in March or April when the snow began to melt, I realized that my darling Rex had acquired the habit of really stamping through this area so I thought I needed to buy one of those jam in the ground premade fences. Chuck and I went to Home Depot and he looked at the cheap fence and said he could do better and boy did he. He hand milled every picket, every post; the design came from him, no pattern or directions, tripling the amount of space I have to plant in. As it took shape the delusions of gardener became more fixated.


So, come August and September, it is my hope to get at least 1 ear of corn (2 varieties but I will be happy with a single well formed ear) and enough tomatoes (13 plants, 8 varieties). For good measure I also planted 3 kinds of potatoes, acorn squash, butternut squash, white turnips, the aforementioned beets, 3 kinds of sweet peas, 3 kinds of green beans, 2 varieties of cantaloupe, 2 kinds of peppers, eggplant, horseradish, many herbs, lettuces, chard, and spinach. While I may not have Dad’s talent, I did get some of his enthusiasm.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Meaning of Life

I have too much to do today. I have too much to do every day for that matter and finding time to blog has just slipped down to the bottom. But it nags at me, like dusting or filing, something that HAS to be done, something I can even enjoy doing when I get into the zone….




Ahhh, the “zone”. I spent yesterday with a group of women at “The Round House” in Kent, CT, the home, workshop and healing space of my good friend Patricia Horan who brought us together to get out of our own way. I have been doing this kind of work for years and am quasi successful at it, yet….. So Miss Patricia brought in a woman named DyAnn Suares who can help us, in scant moments, cut through the smoke and mirrors we erect. One by one we went into our private session, emerged, gathered our coats and bags and departed. I drove home thinking, “Good, I’m pretty much on track even though I don’t do things like my blog, or finish the damn book…yadda, yadda” You know, the lies we tell ourselves. But evidently this Diane Suares reached a spot, because here I am, adding a recipe for the book and writing to you- the unknowns.


Thank you Patricia. Thank you DyAnn and thank you to the wonderful women present both in form and in spirit, you all enrich my existence and give it meaning. Incidentally, if you want to make an appointment with this woman DyAnn her phone number is 860-619-0016 and email is DSuares@charter, net.

So here is the real meaning of life. Chocolate.

Chocolate Love, Chocolate Mousse Cake
Y: 1 cake but I recommend using ingredient list at bottom, making 3 cakes and freezing the other two.
1 – 9” cake can feed 16 normal people. Adjust accordingly!
Time: 1 hour prep, 1 ½ hours cooking, overnight in turned off oven and several hours in the frig before unmolding. Cake is best a day or two after being baked.
Equipment:
• 8-9” Springform Pan
• Aluminum Foil
• Double boiler: For this I use a 4 qt pot with a large stainless bowl inserted. You need the space especially if you are making the three cakes.
• 2 large heat resistant bowls
• Whisk
• Rubbermaid spatula
• Large metal spatula
• Cake circles
• Coffee maker of some kind.


Ingredients:
• ¾ pound the best dark chocolate you can afford
• 2/3 pound butter
• 1 1/3 cup sugar
• 2/3 cup brewed strong coffee
• 6-7 eggs- beaten
• Pam or butter.


Method:
• Brew coffee of better yet, save some from the morning.
• In double boiler (see Equipment) place Chocolate, Butter and Sugar, stirring occasionally to insure complete melting of chocolate.
• Remove Bowl from heat and let cool slightly to just above your body temperature.
While chocolate is cooling:
• Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
• Prepare pan(s) by placing bottom upside down in rim. There should be an indentation beneath pan, rather than having the bottom lie flat.
• Surround pan in foil.
• Pam or butter pans.
• Crack and beat eggs in separate bowl.
Once chocolate has cooled, gradually and gently add beaten eggs into chocolate mixture to avoid incorporating any air. Once mixed, add coffee.


Pour batter into prepared pan. Pick up pan with two hands about 4 -5 inches off the counter and let drop. Air bubbles will rise to the surface. Do this till you feel you have removed air pockets.


Place cake (s) into preheated oven for an hour and a half. Do not open the oven again, use the light.


The cake will be as cooked as it needs to be when it rises and the edges begin to appear cooked. At this point shut the oven off and forget about the cake for the next 6-8 hours. The next day transfer the cake to the refrigerator to thoroughly chill.


To unmold:
Have cakes circles at the ready (or a plate if only one cake)
Remove foil. There may have been some leakage, this little bit is your reward for not opening the oven) Run a small knife in hot water, dry it and gently around the edge of the spring form. Release the springform. Run a large spatula under hot water and dry it slip it beneath the cake and transfer to circle or plate.


This is heavenly with fresh whipped cream. If you want to sex it up, add some raspberry sauce or fresh raspberries. I rarely do this for myself personally but do this for clients. I like the cake just as it is.


For the full recipe which yields 4: 6-7”springforms or 3- 9” springforms
2 ¼ pounds chocolate, 2 pounds butter, 4 cups sugar, 2 cups coffee, 19 eggs

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Want to feel like it's warmer?


Unctuous Beef Brisket. Cornbread, moist but crumbly with gritty perfection that needs neither butter nor honey. Smoked Prime Rib, rare, sliced thin and served on a soft potato roll with a Cajun Remoulade. Chicken wings, large and shellacked to juicy perfection in the custom smokers brought up from Texas served with a tangy buttermilk bleu cheese dipping sauce.Crisp and tender rings of fried Calamari with a Smoky Chipotle Sauce that have severely addictive qualities. Rounds of crisply fried green tomatoes with Pecorino Romano and drizzled with a spicy savory sauce.

These were some of the foods I sampled at Billy Joe’s Ribworks a couple of weeks ago and am still drooling over. With all the snow we’ve had I think we all need a break and I urge you to take the ride across the Newburgh Beacon Bridge and head to the river to eat at my new favorite place to hide out. Cavernous with a honky tonk feel, this new venture on Newburgh’s waterfront restaurant row has so many of my favorite things in a restaurant. First, it’s barbeque, hands down, my favorite thing to eat. Second, it’s on the water, and by on the water I mean, ON THE WATER. The Hudson flows directly beneath the considerable deck that is slated to be ready at spring’s first blush. Honestly, listening to the ice flow under my feet while looking across the Hudson, a bridge to my left and one in the distance to the right, the ferry landing just yards away, well, it was romantic even though it was freezing! Third, it's clever, clean and the guest is paramount being attended to by cute waitresses and waiters with just enough sass to make this fun. BIG drinks. BIG plates and something for everyone from the cue lovers like myself, to the ever dieting friend, vegetarian and even your mother in law who doesn’t like anything.

In the interest of full disclosure, my mentor Joe Bonura, Sr. and his family opened this place and invited me to stop and sample some fare while they were preparing for the official opening. But this family (who are referred to in a previous post - March 11, 2010) knows how to do it and do it well. Come by land or sea, yes you can dock your boat right outside, on two wheels or four. If I’m not at your house doing a party I will be there with a plate of wings in front of me!

Did I mention the Banana Pudding?

http://www.ribworks.com/

Monday, November 29, 2010

Help Soldiers Eat Better

UPDATE 5/2011:  MIKE IS STATESIDE NOW SO NO LONGER NEEDS THESE DONATIONS.  Please contact your local VFW to see who your local soldiers are, I bet they could use an influx of goodies!

Wondering what to do with all of your holiday generosity? I read a blog called Chef2Chef.net and stumbled across this post. I have copied and pasted but the photos don't come up. The list, the links and the address is here and I am running to Restaurant Depot, the Asian market and then to the Post Office to get my box off to these brave kids.

Happy Holidays to one and all.

The copied and pasted post:


November 24th, 2010
Help Soldiers Eat Better!
Mike is one of our most helpful, long standing members of the Chef2Chef forums. He’s also an Army cook tasked with feeding hungry soldiers still stationed in Afghanistan. The problem: the military provides basic ingredients, but very few of the seasonings necessary to produce great tasting grub.

You can help by donating any of the following ingredients to Mike and his crew. Our soldiers serving overseas will thank you! We’ve had great success with this campaign in the past, but supplies are running low! Note that dollar and big box stores often sell these items for a fantastic price. If you can’t send much, don’t fret–every little bit helps.

If you’d like to participate, please send an email to the following email address to request the proper mailing address: chef2chefnet[at]gmail.com – replace the [at] with a @–I modified it to foil spambots.

Thanks so much!

Mike’s Wish List:

Lawry’s season salt
Old bay
Basil
Bay leaves
Cinnamon
Dill
Ginger
Mace
Nutmeg
Sage
Thyme
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Curry powder
Vanilla
Chili powder
Cayenne
Liquid smoke
Allspice
Cumin
Paprika
Parsley
Crushed red pepper
Chicken veggie or beef base
Sriracha sauce
Rosemary
Cup a soup during the winter months
Tea, black and green
Gallon-size Ziplocs

Bonus Items:
Gummys
Red Vines
Gobstoppers
Crunch and Munch
Instant Miso
Wasabi peas
Mixed Nuts
Ramen Noodles
Chex Mix

Notes:
Flat-rate shipping boxes work great–they’ll work for overseas shipments to military sites.
Alcohol and pornography are prohibited (sorry!)
Take caution when sending liquids–double bag in Ziploc bags if there’s a chance they’ll leak.

Thanks so much!

look at the list take a guess cause sooner or later I'm gonna need it. improvise if you what I'll figure out how to use it.
The addy is
SGT Michael Swaggerty
Fco 2/502 FSC 2BCT 101ABN DIV
FOB Howz E Madad
APO AE 09370

...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ahhhhh, finally the Baked Brie recipe!


This is one of the most requested items come fall. Back when Martha was doing her baked Brie en Croute in puff pastry, I was immediately revolted by the all the fat oozing off the plate. The fat content of the melted cheese was enough for me but add the buttered rich puff pastry and instant gag. Then there was always the issue that in order to get the cheese to melt then the pastry would burn. If the pastry looked good then the cheese was tepid at best. In those days bread bowls for soup was consider genius and somehow they became one for me. So here it is….

BERWINDS BAKED BRIE

Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours
Yield: The 2lb. brie can feed a crowd of 25-35 as part of a hors d’ouevre table.

INGREDIENTS:

2 lb. Coal, Tuscan, Peasant or other round crusty bread, unsliced. Must measure at least 10” in diameter.
2 lb. Brie
1 to 1 ½ cups chopped toasted Pecans
1 – 1 ½ cups dried Cranberries
1 1 ½ cups dried Cherries
1 ½ - 2 cups Light Brown Sugar
4 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. grated Nutmeg
1 tsp. ground Tonka Bean or Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla (a Nielsen Massey product)
French Bread cut up or Crackers (or both!)

DIRECTIONS:

• Cut a circle into your bread large enough to fit the brie. Remove interior of bread from both the lid and the “bowl”. (Save this bread to either make croutons or bread crumbs either drying it out for dried breadcrumbs or grinding it and reserving in an airtight container in the freezer.)
• Remove the paper off the brie saving the wrapping for later in this step, and place onto a cutting board. Insert a serrated knife halfway beneath the top of the brie. With your other hand placed on top of the brie, gently move your knife in a circular way to remove the top rind off the cheese. Place this top onto the reserved paper.
• Now I use my hands for most of this and don’t think amounts matter so very much…as long as there is PLENTY of “stuff” used….so… Place a handful of brown sugar on bottom of hollowed out bread. Top with a scattering of dried cranberries, dried cherries, pecans, a sprinkling of cinnamon and a grating of nutmeg.
• Place Brie on top of this and repeat above.
• Place lid of brie on top of this and repeat once more, using up all ingredients.
• Place bread lid on top, gently pressing down.
• Wrap the bread in two thicknesses of aluminum foil. I use the extra long, extra heavy 18” width Reynolds Foil
The Brie can be frozen at this point or stored in the frig for a day or two. If you freeze it remove from freezer 2 days before baking and let defrost in the frig.

COOKING:

Bake at 350 degrees for at least an hour and a half and up to two hours. I know this sounds very long but it really does take that long for it to melt all the way through. You can test this by opening the foil and removing the lid, insert a thin knife directly through the center and leave there for a moment. Withdraw the knife and check the blade temperature. If noticeably warm, you are done. If not, return the lid to the bread, rewrap and back into the oven for another bit.

TO SERVE:

Have a platter or board large enough to fit your brie ready. Cut up some French bread and open up some good crackers. Carefully remove foil and with protected hands transfer the hot bread to the platter. Take the lid and cut it up into bite size pieces. I place these directly on top of the bread. Scatter the crackers, etc around the platter and serve. I’d also apply some lipstick here as everyone will be looking at you as you bring this out!

NOTES:
1- You may want to increase, decrease quantities of anything. Substituting nuts and fruits-all good.
2- Smaller bries and smaller breads are available. The cooking time will be between an hour fifteen and an hour and a half.
3- Breadcrumbs. Fresh breadcrumbs, toasted, can elevate a simple oil and garlic preparation of pasta and are considered a must have ingredient here. As far as dried breadcrumbs, there is no good reason to ever buy them. Make your own, they take an extra couple of minutes and taste so much better due to the variety of breads that will go into them. Worth the minimal extra time involved.
4- Tonka Beans are available at Caribbean grocery stores and the Neilson Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla can be had at www.Amazon.com in the Grocery & Gourmet section.

November 2011 NOTE:



I had a comment recently that the cooking time I have listed is too long. The cooking time is based on 2pound brie, bread that is at least 12 inches in diameter and has been previously frozen. If you are making this same size without freezing it cooking time would be about an hour and if you are making this with smaller brie then even less time. As with all of cooking, a little common sense needs to come into play and that includes checking on your items in the oven. Please keep those comments coming!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Something to do next weekend

Looking for something to do with the family this weekend? Thinking about having a family portrait done for the all important holiday card and gift for Grandma? Well known portrait photographer Debby Brown will be at Maimonides Academy at their Family Fun Day at a greatly reduced rate of a $36 sitting fee (normally $150) this Saturday, October 17th. Each 30 minute session must be reserved so call and reserve your time slot with Gigi at 203/918-8788 or with the school itself at 203/748-7129.

Maimonides recently sold their property to a neighboring school so that they can move to a facility that will better suit their growing needs, the fourth move Maimonides Academy has made since their 1978 founding. This nurturing school provides a Jewish and secular learning environment from nursery school through 5th grade, offering a more challenging curriculum than many of the other local private educational institutions in our area.

Other activities that will be happening at this family oriented afternoon will include Judaic sand art, a variety of bouncy things and the reason I will stop by: delicious and juicy Kosher Hot Dogs.

Bring the family, save some money on your holiday photos and check out this amazing resource for your children and their children’s children.

Maimonides Academy of Western Connecticut
103 Miry Brook Road
Danbury, CT 06810

Phone: 203-748-7129
http://www.mawcschool.org