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Apple & Vanilla Tart

I’ve come out of summer hibernation… finally. Fall is here and the cooler temperatures have inspired me to get back to the kitchen.

Your freezer section does most of the work for this fast & impressive dessert. If you have a mandolin – it makes the process even faster for slicing the apples. For something so easy to put together (and the oohs & ahhs that followed from the tasters) I think I’ll stop spending hours on dessert!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 whole sheet Puffed Pastry, thawed & cut in half
  • 4 whole Granny Smith apples, cored, halved & sliced (but not peeled)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste or powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons Muscovado or dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apricot or pear jelly

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 415 degrees.

Place puffed pastry rectangles onto a baking pan that’s been sprayed with nonstick spray. Add vanilla, lemon juice & salt to apples. Stir to combine. Allow to sit for a few minutes.

Arrange apple slices on the pastry rectangles in a straight line, overlapping as you go. Dot the top with the butter and sprinkle with Muscovado or dark brown sugar.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Warm the jelly and brush over the apples and pastry edge. Serve hot with vanilla ice cream or crème fraîche.

Lime Bulgur Wheat Salad with Cucumbers & Tomatoes

In Texas we’ve been complaining about the heat for months. It’s been a long summer and my kitchen has gotten a big break – I’ve just not felt like cooking (my absence explained). But when my friend Laura brought over this salad a few weeks ago it was decidedly the thing I was going to make and could enjoy eating in 107 degrees. My inspiration will return in the Fall – already have lots of new things I can’t wait to share.

This recipe is based on the traditional tabouleh salad, a popular Middle Eastern side dish containing vegetables, olive oil and spices, get recipe here. There are a few differences – the use of lime and much less parsley, which I prefer. The base of bulgur wheat and the vegetables makes it super nutritious and a perfect summer side. I like to add grilled chicken or shrimp and make it a meal – but it’s a perfect side dish for my Greek Chicken Meatballs with Spicy Yogurt Sauce.

Bulgur wheat is a natural whole grain food that is quick cooking and very nutritious. It’s high in fiber, rich in B vitamins and has fewer calories, less fat, 4 times the folate and more than twice the fiber of brown rice. It’s nutty flavor is perfect in this Mediterranean inspired salad.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bunches flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 large English cucumber (or 2 medium garden variety), peeled, seeded & diced
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup wheat bulgur (fine)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3-4 tomatoes, seeded & chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

DIRECTIONS

In a medium bowl add the wheat bulgur and lime juice. Stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove from refrigerator and layer as follows:

1. Cucumber
2. Salt
3. Onion, cumin, coriander & parsley

Refrigerate for 2 hours then remove and add 1/2 cup olive oil. Stir to combine. Add tomatoes and feta and mix all together.

Serve as a side dish or make it a meal by adding grilled chicken or shrimp.

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.

Spring Vegetable Pasta

Like TV shows, there are very few cooking magazines I can commit to. Fine Cooking being the only magazine I’ve subscribed to in years. But new competition is now coming in the mail. Cooks Illustrated is a no-frills, no-color magazine with a test kitchen that tirelessly perfects techniques until they are sure the recipe is a perfect one, for this using the best appliances with warranty plans where you can cover multiple devices like blenders, microwave or kitchens.

This recipe is uber creative in that it mimics the techniques of a creamy risotto, but with a pasta. The stock is super flavored from the asparagus and leek trimmings that would typically be thrown in the trash. Full of fresh flavor and no cream!

A special thanks to my best friend Jen in NY for the subscription… you will love this recipe!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts washed and cut into ½ inch slices; dark green leaves chopped
  • 1 lb asparagus, tough ends removed and chopped; remainder sliced into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb Campanelle or other pasta
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 oz grated asiago cheese

DIRECTIONS

Prep the broth – place the chopped leek and asparagus scraps, ½ of the garlic, 1 cup of the peas, the broth, and the water into a saucepan. Turn to high heat; bring to boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. Strain broth through a mesh strainer, pushing on the solids with a spoon to get as much liquid and flavor as possible. You should have about 5 cups of liquid. If you have less, add some water to bring the total volume to 5 cups. Discard the solids from the strainer and return the broth to the saucepan. Keep on low heat.

Prep the vegetables – heat 2 Tb of the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced leeks and some salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the asparagus to the pot and cook for another 4 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and the pepper flakes and cook for about a minute. Add the peas and cook for another minute. Transfer all of the vegetables to a plate and allow to sit – uncovered – while you prepare the pasta.

Cook the pasta – wipe out the dutch oven, return to medium heat, and add the remaining oil. Add the dry pasta and cook for about 5 minutes (until pasta is beginning to brown) stirring constantly. Add the wine and continue cooking (and stirring) until the wine is absorbed. Add the warm broth and turn heat to medium high. Bring the pot to a boil. Continue cooking and stirring until liquid is absorbed and pasta is cooked. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, 1/2 of the parmesan, asiago, cooked vegetables, half of the chives, half of the parsley, and all of the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Garnish with the remaining herbs and parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Roasted Beet Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce & Toasted Walnuts

This is only the second time I have ever made gnocchi. The first attempt was at Christmas a few years ago. My sister and I were trying to recreate the gnocchi we devoured at The Spotted Pig in NYC. It wasn’t successful. But I’ve been watching, researching and getting a better grasp on the art of making gnocchi since that disaster. The secret: don’t overwork the dough and start with room temperature ingredients.

This dish is a show stopper and a total make-ahead meal. It’s absolutely stunning with the magenta morsels nestled in the creamy sea of white. I served this for a girl’s dinner on a weeknight and all of the pieces were made days before. The gnocchi were prepared a week before and popped in the freezer (thaw the day of in the refrigerator). The cream sauce was made 2 days ahead and kept in the refrigerator and reheated. Assembly was quick. Impress your people. Feed them this.

INGREDIENTS

For the gnocchi:

  • 3 small red beets, roasted and pureed
  • 1 pound whole milk fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup flour

For the cream sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 12 ounces of Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

For the garnishes:

  • 1/4 cup toasted walnuts
  • 10 fresh basil leaves – chiffonade (long thin strips)
  • Parmesan Cheese – for garnish
  • Gorgonzola crumbles – for garnish

DIRECTIONS

To roast beets: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and dry beets. On a large sheet of foil, drizzle beats with olive oil & season with salt. Fold into foil pouch (or bake in a baking dish covered with foil) and bake for 30min -1 hour, depending on the size of the beets. They should be fork tender. Place into food processor and puree. Set aside.

To make the gnocchi: Place beet puree in a large bowl. Stir in ricotta, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix in 1 cup of the flour. (Dough can be made one day ahead, cover and refrigerate).

Sprinkle some flour on your countertop or board. Take a handful of the “dough” and place on counter or board. Lightly shape & roll the dough into a log. Cut into 1-inch pieces and shape into balls. Then transfer to baking sheet. Do this in batches. (Gnocchi can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate). Be careful to not overwork the dough – this will make it tough.

To make the sauce: In a saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in flour to create a roux and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly add in milk, whisking to keep lumps from forming. Continue to stir while sauce starts to thicken. Once the sauce has thickened and will coat the back of a spoon, blend in crumbled Gorgonzola and Parmesan until the cheese has melted. Season with salt & pepper to taste.

Preheat the broiler. Working in batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of simmering salted water until gnocchi float to the surface, about 3-4 minutes (depending on the size of the gnocchi). Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to the skillet with cream sauce.

Place skillet under the broiler until the cheese sauce has started to brown. Remove from oven and top gnocchi with toasted walnuts, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese & Gorgonzola crumbles. Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve!

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Blueberries

Lemon and blueberries are a beautiful combination not only in color, but flavor. This lemon cake inspired by The Barefoot Contessa is perfect for breakfast, a middle of the day snack or after dinner sweet fix.

I won’t say it’s guilt-free, but for a cake it’s healthier than most. It’s not overly sweet and the yogurt makes the cake super moist. If you want the blueberries laced throughout the entire cake, toss them with a tablespoon of flour (to keep them from sinking) and fold in gently.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle blueberries on top of the batter. Bake for about 50 – 60 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before flipping out onto a cooling rack. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Bacon, Parmesan & Cranberries

Brussels sprouts raw and thinly sliced are delicious… who knew? Surprisingly very mild, the Brussels sprouts in this slaw-centric recipe are paired perfectly with some salty bacon, sweet dried cranberries and crunchy nuts. Mix and match what you have on hand – walnuts, feta, goat cheese, golden raisins or cherries – it all works.

Tip from my kitchen: Slicing little Brussels sprouts on a mandolin is dangerous work (I have 3 fingers to prove it). Opt for the slicer blade on your food processor – it’s quicker and safer.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup (1/8 ounce) tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked crispy & crumbled
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or Craisins)
  • 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS

Holding each Brussels sprout by stem end, cut into very thin slices using a mandolin or the slicer blade in a food processor. Toss in a bowl to separate layers. Add pine nuts, bacon, cranberries and parmesan cheese.

To make the vinaigrette whisk mustard and vinegar together. Drizzle in olive oil and season with salt & pepper. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

Truffle Brie Macaroni & Cheese

I’m not a huge fan of the traditional comfort foods… mashed potatoes & gravy, pot roast and meatloaf are easy to resist. For me, comfort food is creamy lemon & pea risotto, beef bourguignon and cannelloni!

When my sweet friend (also fabulous baker & fierce soccer player), Marisa, was recovering from ACL surgery she requested comfort food. So I made what has to be the #1 Comfort Food: Macaroni & Cheese. I’ve since changed my mind about this favorite dish – add some truffle brie to macaroni and cheese and I’ll eat it. Happily.

If you can’t find the truffle brie substitute regular brie and add some truffle oil.

INGREDIENTS

For the breadcrumbs:

  • 1/2 loaf ciabatta bread (or any bread you have on hand)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the cheese & pasta:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 ounces Marscapone cheese (or cream cheese)
  • 1 pound grated Sharp Cheddar
  • 1 pound grated Monterrey Jack
  • 4 ounces Black Truffle Brie OR 4 ounces plain Brie + 3 T truffle oil
  • 1 pound cavatappi pasta (or elbow)

DIRECTIONS

For the breadcrumbs: Cube your bread into medium size squares and put it in the food processor for a couple pulses. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tbsp oil in large skillet overt medium heat. Add garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add bread crumbs to skillet an stir until crumbs are slightly toasted – about 5 minuets. Set aside.

For the cheese & pasta: Cook the pasta 2 minutes LESS than the al dente package directions. Please salt your water very well so the pasta has flavor. Drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan heat butter and olive oil until melted over medium high heat. Next, whisk your flour into the butter and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Slowly add cream and milk whisking in between to make sure there are no lumps. Bring mixture to a simmer and whisk until desired thickness (close to pancake batter). Remove from heat. Add grated cheese & marscapone and mix until melted. Season with salt & pepper. If using truffle oil – add this to the cheese mixture.

Stir in drained, cooked pasta to the cheese mixture. Transfer to a baking dish and top with sliced brie cheese & then sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Cioppino

Cioppino is a fish stew originating from Portuguese and Italian fishermen who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco in the late 1800’s. It’s a collective pot of leftover catch of the day from the local fisherman. The story is that wharf cooks would call for the fishermen to “chip in” some of their catch to the collective soup pot. Typically a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish were thrown into the tomato and wine broth.

Use whatever fish and seafood combination you like. Shrimp, scallops, halibut and mussels are my favorites and what I chose.

A few tips.

  • Infusing the stock with the shrimp shells imparts a lot of flavor – so do the extra work and peel & devein your own shrimp just for the shells.
  • Pernod (anise flavored liquor) is a classic flavor in Cioppino. If you don’t have any (or don’t want to spend the money on a bottle) – chop a bulb of fennel and add to the onions when cooking.
  • Fish Stock – so maybe you can’t find fish stock in your store. If not, use equal parts of bottled clam juice & water.

INGREDIENTS

  • 32 ounces (2 quarts) fish stock, Kitchen Basics is my favorite
  • Pinch saffron
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand (or pureed in food processor)
  • 2 cups white wine (Pinot Grigio)
  • 1/4 cup pernod
  • ¼ cup pesto
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 pounds mussels
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shells)
  • 3/4 pound sea scallops, foot removed
  • 2 pounds halibut fillet, skinned, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • ½ cup basil, chopped
  • 1 loaf crusty bread

DIRECTIONS

Heat fish stock in a small saucepan. Add reserved shrimp shells to fish stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain stock of shrimp shells into large bowl. Add saffron to warm stock and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in an 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, allowing it to brown for about 20 seconds, then add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add bay leaf and oregano. Stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until paste darkens a bit, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes white wine, pernod and the saffron flavored fish stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until liquid has reduced by half. Cover pan and simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in the pesto and parsley. Add mussels and simmer until mussels open, about 3 minutes (discard any unopened clams). Add shrimp and scallops and cook for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, season halibut salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil. Cook the halibut until seared and the fish is cooked through – about 2-3 minutes per side.

Remove bay leaf from pot. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowl and top with chopped basil. Serve with crusty bread.

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