Now wouldn't you think, when planning an outdoor meal during what is typically the hottest week of the summer, the only thing you'd need to worry about is... the possibility of storms... uncomfortably high humidity... mosquitoes? Nope... it instead happened to be unseasonably cool temperatures and an extremely, brisk breeze that gave us a windchill... in July!... that we had to contend with while dining al fresco on the patio yesterday evening.
We braved strong winds and temps in the 50's; some of us wrapping up in blankets. We could have easily migrated indoors. But those of us from Minnesota, a state that in its weather history has reported snow every month but July, are just stubborn. It's summer, gosh darn-it! And we're going to experience it outdoors no matter what! I'm sure the distant relatives we were entertaining from farther south, and weren't dressed for October-like weather, wondered what the heck was wrong with us.
I served Banana-Bean Dip with blue corn chips before our meal, and it warmed us up a bit with the kick of Chorizo sausage and green chiles. I've made this dip for many years; a recipe from a long-ago New York Times Magazine article. It's also a great accompaniment to grilled Iowa pork chops!
• 2 Chorizo sausages,chopped or about 1/2 lb. bulk Chorizo sausage
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
• half of a 4-ounce can of chopped green chili peppers
• 1/2 cup tomato sauce
• 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
• 4 ripe bananas
1. Saute' sausage for 5 minutes. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chilies and tomato sauce and cook another 5 minutes. Add mashed beans and mashed bananas.
2. Add water to thin the mix, if desired. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes and serve warm with tortilla chips. Dip is also excellent served along with grilled Iowa pork chops.
TAKE a LOOK:
I'm sure you've heard the question, "If you were able to eat dinner with three people, dead or alive, who would you invite?" Responses vary across the board with presidents, musicians and actors, comedians, great thinkers, and deceased relatives usually topping the list.
It's a question I've never bothered to answer myself... that is, until I roasted asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. This recipe was on Dorie Greenspan's blog, IN THE KITCHEN AND ON THE ROAD WITH DORIE GREENSPAN. Whenever I visit Dorie's blog, I always seem to find something there that sounds too good to pass up; French Yeast-Raised Waffles -- case in point. The sheer simplicity of the Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto was reason enough to make them. And while I was wrapping the asparagus with the prosciutto, I was thinking about Dorie. I have liked her ever since I saw a photo of her in a magazine many years ago (the photo now tops the homepage of her blog), where she was reaching for something while standing on a stool in her NYC kitchen. I will never tire of that picture, filled with the tools and implements of a baker (she has 2 Kitchen-Aid mixers!). Plus, she has short hair and great eye glasses (...and who does that remind you of ;-)
But when I really became aware of Dorie Greenspan was when she collaborated with Julia Child (and 36 professional bakers) in the writing of Baking with Julia. If I only had room for one cookbook in my kitchen library, this would be it.
I am also envious of Dorie (and yes, envy is not a character trait I'm proud of). She often writes about Paris, where she owns an apartment and lives part-time. That is something I have always dreamed of doing. But in the meantime, having dinner with Dorie (in Paris, maybe?) would suffice. I would have a lot of questions for her... And the other two I'd invite? They would be two people I consider friends now, the result of having my blog -- Stacey Snacks and Tom at Tall Clover Farm. I think it would be a lovely, lively, and tasty dinner, for sure!
Get the recipe for Asparagus Wrapped in Prosciutto HERE
TAKE a LOOK:
A weekend breakfast? Easter brunch? A platter of Bacon & Egg Tarts with Cornmeal and Black Pepper Pastry is perfect for either. Another easily prepared morning meal when you start a day ahead. Make the pastry dough, then line and freeze the tartlet pans overnight. (I recommend freezing the dough-lined tartlet pans for at least 30 minutes even if planning to bake the tarts immediately.) Bake the individual tart crusts the morning you plan to serve. Fry the bacon, fill the baked tartlet crusts and bake another 15 minutes or so, depending on size and depth of tins. Add a fruit or leafy green salad and, Voilà... breakfast!
I made small individual tarts filled with Parmesan cheese, apple-smoked bacon, and eggs in cornmeal and coarse black pepper crusts for breakfast today. I used shallow Matfer tin molds, but muffin tins would also work nicely, and hold more of the ingredients. Since the tart crusts I made were small and shallow, I ended up separating the yolks from the whites,and placing one yolk in each tart shell. I then added back egg whites to the tart shells by the teaspoonfull. Cracking a whole egg into a bacon and Parmesan-filled shell resulted in much of the egg white spilling out and onto the baking sheet. Using muffin tins with deeper cavities would prevent this from happening.
Rectangular Financier Molds (3 7/8-by-1 7/8-inches)
Round Tartlet Molds (3 3/8-inch diameter)
or, Muffin Tins
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1/4 cup cornmeal
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 teaspoon coarse black pepper
• 8 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cubed
• 4 tablespoons ice water
FILLING, PER INDIVIDUAL SERVING:
• 1/2 to 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
• 1/2 strip apple-smoked bacon, partially cooked but still pliable; either left whole or diced
• 1 medium organic egg
• minced fresh parsley, for sprinkling
TO MAKE THE TART CRUSTS:
1. Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and coarse black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once to combine. Add the butter and pulse briefly, until the size of small peas. Slowly add the ice water while continuing to pulse and stop when the dough just begins to clump. Do not over-process.
2. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap; flatten into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic; refrigerate 2 hours before rolling.
3. Roll the pastry dough, dusted lightly with flour, in between a sheet of wax paper and plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/8-inch. Line the tartlet molds and trim along the edges. There should be enough pastry dough to line approximately 20 tartlet molds. NOTE... a little trick I learned from my niece who attended the French Culinary Institute: Top the dough-lined tartlet mold with an identical mold, pressing together gently; freeze for at least 30 minutes. Turn the tartlet molds upside-down on a sheet pan to bake. This will reduce shrinkage of the tart crust while baking.
4. If using muffin tins instead of tartlet molds, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8-inch and cut rounds with a 4-inch diameter cookie cutter (or use a 4-inch diameter plate as a template and cut rounds with a sharp knife). Gently, and without stretching, press the pastry into the muffin tin. Because of the depth of muffin tins, the dough will crease in places. Be patient and genty press pastry onto the bottom and sides. Place the muffin tin in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake, line each pastry with a small round of wax paper and fill with dried beans. This will help avoid shrinkage of the tart dough while baking. You will get approximately 10 tarts with this recipe if using muffin tins.
5. Place the tarlet molds on a rimmed baking sheet, and/or muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 400˚F oven. Bake for 18 minutes. Remove from the oven. Carefully remove the wax paper and dried beans from the tart shells. The crusts should be a light golden color. Reduce oven temperature to 350˚F.
FILLING and BAKING:
1. Sprinkle the bottom of each tart crust with enough Parmesan to cover, 1/2 to 1 tablespoon. If using an entire 1/2 slice of cooked bacon, lay the slice over the Parmesan, bending to fit molds. Separate the egg yolk from the whites and place egg yolk in tart shell; add egg whites to the tart shell by the teaspoonful. If making tarts using the muffin tins, it will not be necessary to separate the egg yolk from the white; but add the entire egg to the muffin tin tart crust very slowly.
2. Bake tarts on the middle rack of the 350˚F oven for approximately 15 minutes, or until the egg is done to your liking. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the minced fresh parsley. Serve.
TAKE a LOOK:
This is it. My favorite salad. And it's my version of the French Salade aux lardons, croûtons et oeuf poché. First of all, I am crazy about eggs; a poached egg or fried egg in particular, and probably eat more per day than is recommended. Lately, I've been starting my days with black beans (I cook a pot of beans that are combined with onion, jalapeños, and roasted red bell peppers) and top a bowlful of the beans with a fried egg. My last meal of the day has recently been this salad of Greens with a Poached Egg, Sourdough Croutons, and a Sherry-Bacon Vinaigrette, and I will most likely eat this salad every day -- I'm a little weird like that -- until all of the vinaigrette stored in a glass jar in my refrigerator is gone. And, what makes this so easy is, there's no frying of bacon each time I compose this salad. The bacon is cooked and added to the sherry vinaigrette -- toss mixed bitter greens with the vinaigrette, arrange on plates, scatter large cubes of sourdough that have been toasted in extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt, then top with one (or two, in my case) poached eggs... Perfect!
Recipe by Charlie Trotter
• 4 oz. bacon, julienned (I use Nueske's)
• 1/2 cup olive oil
• 1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
• 1 small shallot, finely diced
• Salt & freshly-ground black pepper
Cook the bacon until crispy. Place bacon and 1/4 cup of the rendered bacon fat in a small bowl. Whisk in the olive oil, vinegar and shallot and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble salad:
Toss bitter greens with vinaigrette. Top each serving with one to two poached eggs. Garnish with croutons. Season poached eggs to taste.
TAKE a LOOK:
We've started a new tradition at our house... dinner by the fire. My original plan was to invite friends once a week beginning the first of the year, to dine on a small table in front of our fireplace.
Unfortunately, time has escaped me. I don't know why it's been so difficult to get this event under-way. But here it is, the first of March and we've only just hosted the first dinner in our living room.
It's also going to take a little tweaking. It gets HOT sitting directly in front of a blazing fire... ouch! The next dinner might have candles lit in the fireplace instead. Not quite the same ambiance, but certainly a lot cooler!
I served Apple & Ham Risotto for this inaugural dinner, along with a salad, crusty bread, and a flourless chocolate cake for dessert. Will I make the Apple & Ham Risotto again? Absolutely.
:: Apple & Ham RISOTTO
recipe adapted from An Apple Harvest: Recipes & Orchard Lore by Frank Browning and Sharon Silva
• 5 cups no-salt-added chicken broth
• 3 to 4 ounces country ham, preferably in 1 slice (may substitute pancetta, prosciutto, or smoked turkey)
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• a few sage leaves, plus more for garnish
• 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
• 3/4 cup semi-dry hard apple cider ( I like Crispin)
• 1 large firm apple ( I used an organic Braeburn )
• 1 ounce freshly grated Asiago or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• Coarse salt for finishing
• Freshly ground black pepper
To cook risotto: In large saucepan, heat broth over medium heat. Cut ham into 1/4-inch dice to yield 6 to 8 tablespoons. In large saute pan, melt 2 table-spoons butter over medium heat. Add a few sage leaves. Add ham and rice. Stir to coat. Add cider. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until cider is almost evaporated. Add 1/2 cup hot broth. Cook, stirring, until broth is almost absorbed. Repeat with more additions of broth, allowing them to be absorbed before adding more. (Note: You don't have to stir continuously; when level of liquid goes below rice, add liquid and stir to incorporate.) To prepare apple: Meanwhile, peel and core apple. Cut three-quarters of apple into very small dice to yield 3/4 cup. Cut remaining quarter of apple into very thin slices. In small skillet or saute pan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add diced apple. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 6 minutes or until lightly brown but not mushy. Transfer to bowl. Cover to keep warm. Add apple slices to skillet. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes or until slightly browned.
To add apple: Add sauteed diced apple to risotto with last addition of broth. (Note: Cooking risotto should take 20 to 23 minutes total; rice should be creamy and liquid should be absorbed. You might not need all of broth.) Remove from heat. Cover. Let stand for 3 minutes.
To serve: Divide among individual wide, shallow bowls. Using vegetable peeler, shave a few curls of asiago cheese over each portion. Add sprinkling of salt and pepper. Top with apple slices. Garnish with sage leaves. Serve warm.
TAKE a LOOK:
What's not to love about a strata (a.k.a. bread pudding)? A huge positive with a strata is, it can be totally assembled the day before you plan to serve it. This makes a breakfast or brunch for several very easy. Add some fresh fruit, coffee, juice -- you're set!
Then... there are the ingredients. As long as you work within a certain ratio of milk to eggs for the custard filling (that will be absorbed into the chunks of sturdy bread) you can go crazy tweaking the rest. This recipe uses ham and spinach to nestle between the baguette layers, but cooked sausage and blanched broccoli would be a tasty substitution. The combinations can be endless, or you can stay true to this recipe. You won't go wrong there.
I made this Ham, Fontina, and Spinach Bread Pudding for breakfast at our friends' cabin; assembled it entirely at home, then wrapped it securely for the trip to the cabin. (One caveat... if you are planning to travel several hours with the strata, wait until you reach your destination to pour the custard mixture over the other ingredients. Trust me... it's just easier that way. I'm talking from experience).
There were also buttery croissants from a French Vietnamese bakery in St. Paul that we nibbled on while the strata baked.
It was one of the few mornings that it actually felt like winter, with a night-time low around zero. The hot-from-the-oven strata hit the spot!
> HAM, FONTINA, and SPINACH BREAD PUDDING <
a recipe from Gourmet magazine | December 1999
MAKES 6 SERVINGS
• 1 large baguette (about 3/4 pound); I used my no-knead baguette recipe
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• 4 large eggs
• 1 quart whole milk
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
• 6 cups spinach leaves
• 3/4 pound Fontina cheese, grated
1. Preheat broiler.
2. Diagonally cut baguette crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices and brush both sides with butter. Toast on a baking sheet under the broiler until golden on each side. Remove bread and preheat oven to 350˚F.
3. Sauté onions in oil in a large nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add ham and sauté until ham is lightly browned.
4. Whisk eggs in a large bowl and whisk in the milk, salt, nutmeg, and pepper to taste. Add toasted bread and toss gently. Transfer the saturated bread to a 3-quart casserole, slightly overlapping slices. Add any remaining egg mixture.
5. Tuck spinach and ham between slices. Sprinkle cheese over bread pudding, lifting slices of bread with a spatula to allow some of the cheese to fall between them. Bake on a rack centered in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until puffed and edges of the bread are golden and custard is set in the middle.
+ The bread pudding can be assembled 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Increase baking time to 1 hour and 10 minutes if bread pudding is cold when put in the oven. Cover the top with foil after 45 minutes to prevent over-browning.
TAKE a LOOK:
I am almost embarrassed to post this ham salad that my mother always made. It's ridiculously simple; it's also ridiculously good! At least that's how I feel. If you've been following Passions to Pastry for awhile and you like what I've been making, you will probably also like this.
I remember my mother serving this ham salad in sandwiches, usually in the summer. But the way I really like to eat this ham salad is on crackers. I'm a sucker for the combination of salty ham and the dillness of the added pickle relish. A bowl of ham salad, a basket of crackers, assorted cheeses, a bunch of grapes, and a bottle of wine make a nice little appetizer for anyone who happens to stop by!
• Ridiculously Simple Ham Salad •
the way my mother made it
Ingredients are listed below. The proportions are approximate. Mix it up the way you like it.
• about 3 to 4 cups cubed ham (I will buy a small, fully-cooked, smoked ham)
• about 1/4 cup dill pickle relish
Pulse the cubed ham in the bowl of a food processor until a coarse mince. Remove the ham and place in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add the pickle relish and mayonnaise to moisten. Adjust amounts to your liking.
TAKE a LOOK:
On my last visit to the library, I brought home the book, HARVEST to HEAT, Cooking with America's Best Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans, by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer. I could not put this book down. The recipes by celebrated chefs and the interesting commentary on their favorite produce or pork, beef, and poultry suppliers were reason enough to check this book out; but in addition, you'll see incredibly beautiful staging and photography... something I find irresistible. This recipe for Smoky Pork and Apple Soup with Mustard is the first recipe I tried from the book, and it did not disappoint. I highly recommend it on a cold, snowy night! And, it was pretty good with some leftover brioche, too!
Smoky Pork and Apple Soup with Mustard
April Bloomfield | The Spotted Pig, New York City
Rob Thompson | Thanksgiving Farm, Harris, New York (pork)
Serves 4 (generously)
FOR THE STOCK
• 1 1/2 pounds ham hocks (about 2)
• 2 1/4 cups apple cider
• 1 Red onion, cut in half
FOR THE SOUP
• 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 7 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 3 small onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 1 1/2 pounds medium potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 1 medium head garlic, peeled around the outside but kept whole
• 3 apples, preferably Granny Smith, cut into 1/2-inch dice
• 2 tablespoons mustard, preferably Dijon
• Coarse salt
1. Make the stock: In a large stockpot, combine the ham hocks, 3 quarts water, the apple cider, and red onion halves; simmer over medium heat for about 3 1/2 hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. When cool enough to handle, remove the ham hocks and pull the meat off the bones and set aside; discard the bones. Reserve the cooking liquid (you should have about 2 quarts).
2. Make the soup: Heat the olive oil in large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat; add the carrots, parsnips, and onions, and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, garlic, apples, ham and reserved liquid (if you don't have 2 quarts, then add enough water to equal 2 quarts) and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the mustard and season to taste with salt. Serve immediately.
TAKE a LOOK:
I usually tend to bake more during the week than on weekends; that is, unless we are having friends over for dinner. There is always a newly-made dessert if guests are joining us. But if that isn't the case, we will find some ice cream in the freezer to satisfy any sweet cravings we may have after our meal. When I saw this recipe for Sage and Garlic Roasted Pork Loin on Sweet Paul's website last week, I immediately planned on making it this weekend. It's in the oven right now and the luscious aroma is making me very, very hungry! I'll roast some fingerling potatoes alongside the pork, steam and sear a pan full of broccoli, and then... have some ice cream for dessert.
Sage and Garlic Roasted Pork Loin
recipe from Sweet Paul
• 2 1/2 pounds pork loin
• 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 whole garlic bulb, top cut off
• 1 bunch sage leaves
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 cup white wine
1. Heat oven to 325˚F.
2. Rub the pork loin with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Coat a pan with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and heat; brown the pork on all sides. Place in an ovenproof dish with the garlic. Secure the sage on top of the roast with string. Add the stock and wine; cover with foil, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove foil and cook for another 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with potatoes, the garlic and jus from the pan.
TAKE a LOOK:
We went "Up North" over the 4th of July weekend, and altho' I had a kitchen (yes, a kitchen with a cook-top, an oven, and a sink with running water!), we still made most of our meals on the outdoor charcoal grill.
When I saw this recipe for Basil-Rubbed Pork Chops with Nectarine-Blue Cheese Salad and Toasted Pine Nuts via Serious Eats I thought, this is doable with a little bit of improvising. We always seem to have a stash of Iowa pork chops in our freezer and I also had ripe peaches, a perfect substitute for the nectarines. The one ingredients we lacked was fresh basil. My vegetable garden in St. Paul is planted with two packages of basil seeds every spring, but none of that made it along up north with us.
The only way my husband will grill a bone-in pork chop, is to sear it on both sides and then stand it up, on the bone, to finish. This technique will give you one juicy pork chop.
Under ideal conditions I would have grilled 4 or 5 peaches or nectarines and julienned a lot of fresh basil to finish. But even without those additional ingredients, these were really good pork chops. My daughter cleaned hers to the bone -- that says it all.
Basil-rubbed Pork Chops with Nectarine (Peach) - Blue Cheese Salad and
Serves 2 - adapted from Bobby Flay's Grill It!
• 2 thick, bone-in pork chops
• 8 basil leaves, thinly slice half of the leaves
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• Salt and black pepper
• 2 nectarines (of peaches), halved and pitted.
• 2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
• 1 tablespoon honey
• 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1. Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium. Take 4 whole basil leaves and rub the pork chops on both sides. Brush the chops with 1 tablespoon of the oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear the pork chops on both sides, then stand the chops on the bone (see photo above). It usually takes approximately 20 minutes to cook, but that all depends on the amount of heat and the thickness of the chops. When done, set aside.
2. Coat the halved nectarines (or peaches) with the rest of the oil. Set cut side down on the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until caramelized, but not blackened. Flip, and cook another minute or so, until slightly soft.
3. Plate the chops. Place 2 nectarine halves on each plate and top with a sprinkling of blue cheese, pine nuts, and thinly sliced basil. Drizzle with the honey; season with salt and pepper to taste.
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