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Pumpkin jam bruschetta

On a recent trip to Porto, Portugal I frequented a 16th century chapel turned into a beautiful wine bar, Capela Incomum. The name means “uncommon chapel”.  It’s perfectly situated at the bottom of a hill on a cobblestone street in the Cedofeita neighborhood. They have a wide selection of Portuguese wines and ports by the bottle or glass. On the menu of small plates to enjoy with your wine, was pumpkin bruschetta. Intrigued, I ordered and have been obsessed since.

Doce de Abóbora (Pumpkin Preserve) is plentiful across Portugal and traditionally eaten on toast with cream cheese for breakfast. They also pair it often with walnuts and queijo de cabra, a hard goat milks cheese from the region.

You can’t find this jam in the US and I needed a fix, so I made some. If I shared  a jar with you keep it in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. See recipe below for how to prepare the bruschetta. Open a nice bottle of red wine and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

Rustic bread –  1/2 inch slices
Olive oil
Manchego cheese, or any goat/sheeps milk cheese, sliced
Pumpkin Jam
Walnuts, toasted
Arugula

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush bread slices with olive oil, place on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until toasted. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

Top the slices of bread with the sliced cheese, plenty of pumpkin jam and sprinkle toasted walnuts on top. Garnish with arugula.

 

 

Welsh rarebit

Welsh rarebit

Welsh rarebit… there is nothing quite like it. My introduction to this decadent dish was years ago at a pub just over the Oklahoma border in Kansas.

Fast forward 14 years and chef Fergus Henderson, of the infamous St John Bar & Restaurant in London, is on my ever-growing list of must haves.

Initially, I was only after one thing…. roasted bone marrow. But then I hear…. “Welsh rarebit to start?”… from the angel in white standing next to my table. You can’t pass on the opportunity to devour, what has to be, the best thing on sliced bread: beer and cheese.

I walked in and out with the same thoughts… this place is perfection: the ambience, the food, the wine, the patrons.

Fergus, I’ll be back for more. Until then, I’m surviving winter with my best rendition and a nice glass of red wine.

Welsh rarebit (to feed six)
Extract from Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating Published by Bloomsbury in 2004

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp mustard powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup Stout beer
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
16 ounces mature strong Cheddar cheese, grated
6 pieces of sourdough wheat bread

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour, and let this cook together until it smells biscuity but is not browning. Add the mustard powder and cayenne pepper, stir in the beer and Worcestershire sauce, then gently melt in the cheese.

When it’s all of one consistency, remove from the heat, pour out into a shallow container and allow to set. You can keep in the fridge for a few days at this point.

In a cast iron skillet, butter one side of bread and cook util toasted on one side – 2-3 minutes.

Spread cheese mixture generously on un-toasted side of bread. Place bread slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and broil for for 2-3 minutes on the middle oven rack. Eat when bubbling golden brown.

Vietnamese lime chicken wings

The kaffir lime leaves are the star of this dish… so much aroma in such a little leaf. You will find them flavoring many Asian dishes. One of my favs is Thai Tom Yum soup. I order mine online and keep them in the freezer. If you can’t find them don’t worry – they will be perfectly delicious using lime zest (see directions on substitutions below).

Alternatively, you could grill these if you don’t want to heat up your kitchen.

Enjoy & WOO PIG SOOIE!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1/4 cup chicken bouillon powder
  • 2/3 cup Sriracha sauce (asian aisle at grocery)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup pureed red onion or shallot
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 Asian pear (optional)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 24 whole jumbo chicken wings
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar and lime leaves. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half – about 4-5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Set aside. If you don’t have kaffir lime leaves, use the zest of 3 regular limes and ½ cup honey as a replacement.

In a food processor, add the bouillon, ½ cup of the lime syrup, Sriracha, oil, onion, pear and vinegar. Blitz together to form a paste. Reserve some paste for brushing, and place the rest in a resealable plastic bag. Toss the chicken wings in the paste in the bag and allow to marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour or overnight.

Set a wire rack inside each of 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Divide wings between prepared racks and spread out in a single layer.

Bake for 35 minutes. Brush the wings with the remaining sauce and turn wings over so the other side can crisp up. Bake for another 10 -15 minutes. Turn the broiler on and leave the oven cracked and finish for another 3 minutes. Be sure to watch and make sure you don’t burn them!

Transfer to a platter and top with cilantro leaves and peanuts.

Baked Ricotta and Goat Cheese with Candied Tomatoes

On a recent trip to Italy I visited a beautiful village in Greve in Chianti named Panzano. This small town with 12 restaurants is a picturesque postcard of Tuscany.

The best restaurant in town, in my American opinion that may not matter too much, is the family owned Cantinetta Sassolini. Apparently all of the locals agree with my #1 rating because it was packed each night I dined. On my first visit for dinner, I ordered a starter of baked cheese with a fava bean sauce. The ricotta & goat cheese was slightly caramelized on the top with that lovely chewy dark cheese flavor. I knew I had to recreate this and found this recipe on Food52.com. The sweet candied tomatoes over the savory cheese are ridiculously good.

More inspiration to come from this lovely restaurant at the top of the hill on the way to the church (after the butcher shop).

INGREDIENTS

For the baked cheese:

  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 4 ounces log goat cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves, or leafy herb of your choice
  • generous grinding of black pepper
  • generous sprinkling of kosher salt

For the candied tomatoes:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup vermouth
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 sprigs marjoram, or leafy herb of your choice
  • sea salt

DIRECTIONS

  1. For the baked cheese: Place the ricotta in a colander lined with cheese cloth and leave to drain for about 30 minutes, pressing down to help extract liquid.
  2. Preheat the oven 375 degrees. Brush the inside of a 2 cup baking dish with olive oil.
  3. In the small bowl of a stand mixer, beat the ricotta, goat cheese and egg until smooth. Beat in the herbs (chopped if the leaves are large), a generous amount of pepper and salt. Taste your goat cheese first, saltier cheeses require less additional salt.
  4. Spoon the cheese mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 40 minutes, or until puffed in the center and browning.
  5. Let the cheese cool slightly, then invert it out onto a plate.
  6. For the tomatoes: While the cheese is baking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then drop in the tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until the skins on the tomatoes start to split. Pull the pan off the flame, add the vermouth and return to the heat. Add the brown sugar and herbs and stir until the sugar is melted. Add a generous pinch of salt. Lower the heat and cook gently until the liquid is reduced to a syrupy coating for the tomatoes. The tomatoes will collapse and some may disintegrate. That’s fine.
  7. When ready to serve, spoon the candied tomatoes over the warm baked cheese and serve with sliced baguette or crostini.
  8. The baked cheese can be prepared a few hours in advance and then baked before serving. It is best served warm, but not necessarily right out of the oven. The tomatoes can be prepared ahead too and gently reheated before serving.

Sweet Potato Galettes

Another Ottolenghi masterpiece. I’m continually amazed at his combinations of flavor & texture. Bonus – it looks impressive and is super easy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 tablespoons crème fraîche (can substitute sour cream)
  • 3 1/3 ounces goats cheese
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1 medium hot chili, sliced thinly in rings
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 2 tsp chopped parsley

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the sweet potatoes in their skins for 35-45 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into thin slices. Or you can microwave for about 5 minutes-8 minutes and save some time!
  2. Roll out the puff pastry slightly and cut into 4 equal rectangles and prick them all over with a fork. Put the rectangles on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or greaseproof paper and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Take them out and brush with the beaten egg. Spread a tablespoon layer of soured cream on the pastries, leaving a 5mm border around the edge.
  4. Arrange the potato slices on the pastry on top of the cream.
  5. Crumble on the goats cheese, sprinkle on the seeds and chilli and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the underneath is golden brown.
  7. While they are cooking, mix the olive oil, garlic, parsley and a pinch of salt. Brush this over the galettes when they come out of the oven. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Turkey & Sweetcorn Meatballs with Roasted Pepper Sauce

Now you see them, now you don’t…

These meatballs are really satisfying and disappear pretty quickly! I have used ground turkey & chicken and both are equally delicious. Don’t skip the sauce… it is a must. Serve warm or at room temperature (or eat them cold out of the fridge like me).

INGREDIENTS

For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 3 slices of stale white bread, crusts removed
  • 1lb ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 4 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • canola or sunflower oil

For the sauce:

  • 4 red bell peppers
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small Fresno chili, deseeded
  • 2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. To prepare the peppers for the sauce, quarter them with a sharp knife and shave off the white parts and the seeds. Put them in a roasting tray and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and ½ teaspoon of the salt, then roast in the oven for 35 minutes or until soft. Transfer the hot peppers to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Once they have cooled down a little, you can peel them, although it isn’t essential for this sauce. In any case, place them in a blender or food processor with their roasting juices and add the rest of the sauce ingredients. Process until smooth, then taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Set aside.
  2. For the meatballs, place a heavy non-stick frying pan over a high heat and throw in the corn kernels. Toss them in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes, until lightly blackened. Remove and leave to cool.
  3. Soak the bread in cold water for a minute, then squeeze well and crumble it into a large bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the oil and mix well with your hands.
  4. Pour a shallow depth of sunflower or canola oil into your heavy frying pan. Allow it to heat up well and then fry about a teaspoon of the mince mix in it. Remove, let cool a little and then taste. Adjust the amount of salt and pepper in the uncooked mixture to your liking.
  5. With wet hands, shape the mince mix into balls, about the size of golf balls. Brown them in small batches in the hot oil, turning them around in the pan until they are golden brown all over. Transfer to an oven tray, place in the oven at 400F and bake for about 5 minutes. When you press one with your finger, the meat should bounce back. If unsure, break one open to check that it is cooked inside. Serve hot or warm, with the pepper sauce on the side.

Insalata Caprese – Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Salad

In April I planted 5 tomato and a 3 sweet basil plants with this exact picture and post in mind. I’ve cared for these plants like children… and it was worth every bit of work to taste this dish that came from my backyard.

Some of the best meals have few ingredients but top-rate ingredients are essential. All you need is a knife, beautiful vine-ripened summer tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and great olive oil to have this “salad in the style of Capri” on your table in 3 minutes or less.

Serve alone or with crostini.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes (about 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, optional
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

On a platter arrange tomato and mozzarella slices and basil leaves, alternating and overlapping them. Season salad with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Greek Chicken Meatballs with Spicy Yogurt Sauce

This is the one Rachel Ray recipe in my repertoire… probably because she hasn’t concocted some silly name for them, as she tends to do. I’ve made a few modifications – adding sundried tomatoes, changing up the seasonings, etc. These chicken meatballs are a go to meal when I’ve got chicken that I’m tired on grilling. Serve with pita bread, salads or just dip and enjoy as is.

My cheap tip: Make your own ground chicken. I always have chicken breasts in my freezer. Instead of buying ground chicken I but the chicken into cubes and grind in my food processor. Cheaper, easy and just as good. Feel free to substitute ground turkey or pork.

INGREDIENTS

Chicken Meatballs:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for liberal drizzling
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped, divided
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 pound ground chicken
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • salt & pepper

Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups Greek style plain yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons, 1/2 a palm full, cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons, 1/2 a palm full, coriander
  • Salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a bowl combine onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Squeeze the water out of the spinach until completely dry. Separate the spinach as you add it to garlic and onion. Add feta, chicken , sundried tomatoes and coriander to the bowl and a liberal drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix the meat with veggies and feta and form 18 (1 1/2-inch) meatballs. Brush a nonstick cookie sheet with a little olive oil. Place the meatballs on the cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes until they are golden and juices run clear.

Place yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, coriander and a little salt in food processor and process until smooth. Adjust seasonings and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve meatballs with sauce.

NOLA Crawfish-Stuffed Deviled Eggs

For Christmas my sweet neighbor gifted me an amazing cookbook, Harvest To Heat. It’s full of amazing recipes from America’s best chefs, farmers and artisans. These Crawfish-Stuffed Deviled Eggs are courtesy of chef Donald Link of Herbsaint Bar and Restaurant in New Orleans. The not so traditional filling is full of authentic Louisiana flavors.

Crawfish season officially starts after the New Year… but I wasn’t able to find any fresh crawfish tail meat (Central market was even out). Luckily I found some frozen tail meat direct from Louisiana (If you can’t find crawfish substitute shrimp). These are simple to put together even though they take a little more time than traditional deviled eggs due to the onion/pepper mixture needing cooling time… but well worth the effort. If you are prone to overcooked eggs with green yolks, try my fail proof hard-boiled egg instructions below for the perfectly cooked yellow center.

These are off to the Super Bowl party to be devoured.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 stalk celery, finely diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced
  • 1/2 small poblano, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 pound crawfish tails (16 whole pieces reserved, the remainder roughly chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard

DIRECTIONS

Place eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water, not too deep. Place on burner on HIGH heat. Once they start to boil turn on the timer to 3 minutes.
When the timer goes off, quickly take off the heat, put on the lid and reset the timer to 8 minutes. When 8 minutes are up, take to sink and run cold water over them for about a minute, let them soak a bit to cool off. Once the eggs are cool, peel and cut them in half lengthwise, separating the yolks from the whites. Set both aside.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over low heat and add the onions, celery, jalapenos, poblanos, and spices. Season with salt & pepper. Cook for 4 minutes to sweat the vegetables. Add the crawfish and cook for another 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool.

Put the cooked egg yolks in a mixing bowl and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Add the lemon juice, mayonnaise and mustard and mix to combine. Fold in the cooled crawfish mixture.

Spoon the crawfish mixture into the cooked whites. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with chives and top each with a crawfish tail.

Artichokes with Roasted Garlic Aioli

I couldn’t be happier that Laura Calder is on the Cooking Channel. Finally – a show that defies any preconceived ideas of fussy & pretentious French cooking.

On an unrelated note I am equally unhappy that Sandra Lee is STILL on Food Network.

French Food at Home is refreshing and carefree. Laura Calder is lovely. Her background music is even cute. She makes me want to buy a swing for my porch and fill glass carafes of stock and wine for my fridge. How pretty.

As are these beautiful artichokes she threw together. Perfect starter or snack for a lazy afternoon… which is how I enjoyed my Sunday (and wishing for a swing).

If you need direction on how to prepare an artichoke here’s a great video that breaks it down.

INGREDIENTS

For the aioli:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 head garlic, roasted*
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon

For the artichokes:

  • 6 large Jerusalem artichokes or 12 baby artichokes (poivrade variety, which are the tiny ones)
  • 1 to 2 lemons
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS

To make the aioli: Beat the yolk with the vinegar and mustard in a bowl. Whisk in the oil, drop by drop, to make a thick mayonnaise. Squeeze the garlic out of the roasted cloves into the mayonnaise and whisk smooth. Season the aioli with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, to taste.

To prepare the artichokes: Trim the artichokes, rubbing with lemon as you go, until you are down to the core with a bit of stem attached. Halve. While you’re trimming, bring a pot of water to the boil. Squeeze the juice of a lemon into it and salt it. Drop in the artichokes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes, depending on the size. Drain, and pat dry. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and brown the artichokes on all sides. Transfer to paper towel to drain. Serve with the aioli.

* To roast a head of garlic, wrap in foil and bake for an hour at 350 degrees F.