Salad with Beans and Sausage

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I was recently reading some of my French cookbooks, with the intention of having a French food night with friends, hopefully sooner than later. I’ve previously done this with Indian and Chinese cuisines, serving about 8 different dishes each time, just for the love of those cuisines.

When I was reading Patricia Wells’s book Bistro Cooking, I spotted a recipe I’d bookmarked years ago. I just had to make it.

It’s a salad of dressed greens, topped with warm white beans, warm smoked sausage, then topped with pistachios and chives. Sounds incredible, right?!

From Ms. Wells, “I’m crazy about composed salads, anything with a healthy bed of greens, on which you layer a mixture of full-flavored ingredients.” She was inspired to create this salad after a “mid-fall lunch at Paris’s Quai d’Orsay.”

She recommends using lingots, French white beans, and saucisse de Morteau, sausage from the Jura. And she suggests a young red, just slightly chilled, perhaps a Saumur-Champigny from the Loire.


The closest I found were sausages from Toulouse, the same sausage used in Cassoulet, and I substituted flageolets for the lingots, cause they’re French and in my pantry and I couldn’t find the French ones, which are a white kidney bean. Who knew?!

Salads aux Lingots et Saucisse de Morteau Quai D’Orsay

Beans:
10 ounces dried white beans
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 bay leaves
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt

Dressing:
4 shallots, minced
1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt

Sausage:
10 ounces smoked pork sausage
1 tablespoon olive oil
Several sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 cup dry white wine

Salad:
2 cups young curly endive, cleaned, dried, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup salted pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Rinse the beans. Place them in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, remove the pan from the heat. Set aside, covered, for 40 minutes. Drain the beans, discarding the cooking liquid. Rinse the beans and cover again with cold water. Add the oil, bay leaves, and thyme and bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook over medium heat until tender, about 1 hour. The beans should not be mushy, rather cooked through but firm. Add salt to taste.


Whisk the shallots with the lemon juice and salt in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream and whisk until blended. Season to taste. (I just used a jar.)

Drain the beans thoroughly. Add half of the dressing to the beans/ set aside and keep warm.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, being careful not to pierce it. Add the thyme, bay leaf, onion, garlic, and wine, and bring just to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Drain. Set aside and keep warm.

Place the greens in a large, shallow salad bowl. Pour on the remaining dressing and toss gently.

Divide the greens among 4 large plates, spreading the greens out and pressing them down to lie flat. Place several spoonfuls of the beans in the center. Cut the sausage into thin slices. Arrange them in a fan-like fashion around the edge of the beans.

Sprinkle with the pistachios and chives.

Serve warm.

White beans would have definitely been prettier, but this salad was spectacular.

Country Game Terrine

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A terrine is a fabulous food from the charcuterie family that I enjoy making when my husband brings home pheasant or quail from his hunting trips in November, December, and January.

I love including slices of terrine on an hors d’oeuvres spread, for aprés ski time by a fireplace. Not that I ski, but I will put on a warm sweater and enjoy a terrine with good bread, some accoutrements, and of course wine.

So what is a terrine? Well, it’s not liver. To this day, my husband will not eat my terrines because he is sure I have snuck liver into them. There’s NO liver in a terrine, unless of course you want there to be.

It is a mixture of ground meats, flavored and seasoned and cooked with lots of fat so that although dense, they’re moist and flavorful.

You can make layered terrines with multiple meats, or place sausages in the middle, or even cooked eggs, so that the slices are pretty. I don’t do anything artistic, but I do sometimes adding nuts and dried fruits to the meat mixtures so that the terrine is texturally interesting.

What sets a terrine aside from say, a meat loaf? First, there’s a substantial amount of fat incorporated into the terrine mixture to prevent dryness. Secondly, the mixture is marinated in herbs and spices, plus Cognac and Madeira, before cooking begins.

Terrines are cooked slowly in a Bain Marie, and afterwards are weighted down to help create the dense texture. See how well they slice?


In other words, this ain’t no meat loaf!

Terrines are best served at room temperature, but cold is good too. Some people turn leftover slices into yummy sandwiches.

Country Game Terrine

4 tablespoons butter or duck fat
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 pounds fatty pork shoulder or butt, coarsely ground
1 pound mixed game meat or pheasant only, coarsely ground
1/2 pound ham, diced
Large handful chopped parsley
4 tablespoons Cognac
3 tablespoons Madeira or white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 cup dried cranberries or diced dried cherries
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
Bacon slices, about 36 ounces
3 bay leaves

Heat the butter over moderate heat in a medium skillet, and sauté until soft. Stir in the garlic, thyme, salt, black pepper, white pepper, allspice, and nutmeg and remove the skillet from the heat.

In a large bowl place the pork, game, and ham. I had to grind the pork first, a coarse grind, followed by a more fine grinding for the quail. The hardest part for this step is remembering how to put the damn meat grinder together.

Add the cognac and the Madeira to the meats, plus slightly cooled onion and spice mixture and parsley. I also went ahead and added the cranberries.

Give everything a good stir, cover the bowl, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, test the terrine mixture for seasoning by frying up a little bit in a skillet and taste. Adjust seasoning accordingly. The parsley, allspice, thyme, and cognac are extremely important flavors.

Then stir in the heavy cream and egg yolks until well combined. Fold in the pistachios.

Line a loaf pan generously with bacon slices, allowing them to hang over the loaf pan.

Fill the terrine firmly with the meat. Place the bay leaves on the top of the terrine mixture, then fold over the bacon slices to cover completely.

You don’t have to have as much fun as I did with the bacon, because you’re going to be removing it in any case.

Bring the terrine to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and prepare a large, deep pan with water in which to cook the terrine.

Cover the pan with foil tightly; a double layer would be ideal. Place the loaf pan in the water bath and let it bake for about 1 1/2 hours. But many different factors would change the time. So ideally, use an oven probe thermometer to monitor the internal temperature of the terrine.


After the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F, remove the pan from the water bath and place on a counter top. Remove the foil to let any steam escape. Leave it alone for about one hour.

Notice I forgot the place the bay leaves under the bacon…

Place clean parchment paper over the top of the loaf pan, and cover with another loaf pan that fits inside it, with weights on top. These can be canned goods or bricks. If you think some of the remaining juices will overflow, cover the bottom with foil topped with paper towels.

Leave it like this until the terrine cools completely, then place in the refrigerator and chill it for 24 hours.

To serve, remove the terrine from the loaf pan carefully, remove the bacon strips and bay leaves, and slice crosswise into 1/2” slices.


The terrine is best served at room temperature.


The cranberry and pistachio combination make this terrine more festive. But just about any dried fruit and nut combination can be used, like diced dried apricot and hazelnuts.

Whatever meat you use, just make sure there’s fat inside, or the terrine will be dry. I learned that the hard way.

Nuts and dried fruits are fun, but not a necessity. And hopefully you can see that no real recipe is needed for a terrine. Just have fun!

Pistachio Feta Dip

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Pistachios add a beautiful emerald-green to holiday foods like Christmas bark and festive biscotti, but what about the really green holiday – St. Patrick’s Day?!!

Maybe I’m just really into color – I’ve certainly been accused of that – but I saw this dip online and just knew I’d be making it for St. Patrick’s day, on March 17th, 2018. Way more fun than Irish stew, and you can still enjoy your green beer.

I’m basing my recipe on the one from The Lemon Apron, a gorgeous blog by young Jennifer, who believes in “rustic, indulgent, and healthy home cooking.”

She got the original recipe from the book Persiana, by Sabrina Ghayour.

What I especially loved about this dip is that there is no TAHINI or CHICK PEAS in it!!! Hummus is wonderful, but there are other dips out there.

Case in point – this one is a beautiful purée of pistachios, along with feta and yogurt. YUM!

Pistachio Feta Dip
Slightly Adapted
Printable recipe below

3 1/2 oz (100 g) shelled pistachios
1/4 cup olive oil
7 oz (approx 200 g) feta cheese
2 handfuls of parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove peeled and crushed
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
6 ounces Greek yogurt
Zest of one lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Blitz the pistachios and olive oil in a food processor for 30 seconds.

Add the feta, parsley, garlic, chile pepper, yogurt and lemon.

Blitz until the mixture is well combined and has a rustic texture and place in a serving dish. I drizzled some olive oil over the top.

Serve with warmed focaccia or flat bread, pita crackers, crackers, or crostini.

I used Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips because they’re so delicious.

I realized after-the-fact that if I’d removed the brown, thin skins from the pistachios, the dip would have been greener. But oh well. You will still be addicted!

There isn’t one thing I don’t absolutely love about this dip. I’ll be making it again, even when it’s not St. Patrick’s Day.

Note: In the original recipe, dill and cilantro are both used. I made an executive decision to just use parsley, because I wanted this dip to be more generic in flavor, in order to match it with other hors d’oeuvres I was serving.

I noticed that Jen spread the dip on toast and topped it with an egg! Yeah!!! (her photo below)

 

 

Gordon’s Christmas Muesli

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I’m a big sucker for both Gordon Ramsay, and Christmas. Especially Christmas, but I really respect Gordon Ramsay.

Because he wasn’t well known in the U.S. until he exploded onto food television, many Americans weren’t aware that he’d had a long, tough, distinguished and successful culinary journey up to that point.

And he still is successful. His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars.

Gordon, since we’re on a first-name basis, and Christmas are represented beautifully in a book called “Christmas with Gordon, published in 2010.”

I’ve bookmarked many recipes, and made a few since I first bought the book. But this year while looking through it, a recipe popped out at me that I thought would also make a great gift, which is Christmas Muesli.

It’s not an especially unique recipe, especially for Gordon Ramsay. Beef Wellington is typically associated with the Ramsay name. But I’m excited to make the muesli as gifts.

It’s been many years since I made my own granola. It was so healthy, that only I would eat it. Lots of raw grains, rolled grains, toasted grains, toasted nuts, toasted seeds and no sugar. Yep, that’s why I was the only one who liked it.

But this recipe doesn’t contain lots of sugar. Instead there are an abundance of dried fruits. And, it’s also pretty.

Here’s the recipe.

Christmas Muesli
Makes about 1.3 kg
printabe recipe at bottom

400 g porridge oats
75g unsweetened desiccated coconut
100g skinned hazelnuts
100g skinned Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
100g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
180ml water
120ml groundnut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
75g pitted dates, roughly chopped
75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries
50g crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Combine the oats, coconut, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, brown sugar, and ground spices in a large bowl. Mix well.

Whisk together the water oil, vanilla and salt and then stir into the dry ingredients.

Spread the mixture out in two large, shallow roasting trays.

Toast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring and swapping the trays occasionally, until the muesli is golden and crisp, checking frequently towards the end.

Leave to cool.

Stir in the dried fruit and crystallized ginger.


Store in an airtight container.

I found some tall containers that would be perfect for the granola, and used a plastic baguette bag to line them.

Much prettier!

Enjoy with milk or any milk substitute, or plain yogurt. It’s honestly the best granola I’ve ever had! I’ve already made another batch…

 

 

Mimi’s Christmas Biscotti

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I’m not the first person to come up with the festive combination of dried cranberries and pistachios. They’re red and green, which, of course, is all about Christmas and the holiday season.

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Biscotti are twice-baked cookies. They’re first baked in flat logs, then sliced and baked again to dry them out.

I’ve always loved making different variations of biscotti, because they lend themselves to limitless variations. Because of that, I wanted a cookie base I could depend on, and this is my recipe for that base.

To it you can add dried cranberries and pistachios, or any other fruit and nut combination.

I’m going to type up my recipe as it was published in a local cookbook called “Cooking by the Boot Straps” – A Taste of Oklahoma Heaven Cooked Up By The Junior Welfare League of Enid, Oklahoma. I was honored that they included a few of my recipes in their book, which was published in 2002.

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So here’s the recipe:
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Mimi’s Biscotti

Cookie Base:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups flour

Fruit and Nut Additions:
1 cup chopped dried fruit
3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Beat the butter in a mixing bowl until creamy. Add the sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat just until combined.

Fold in the dried fruit and nuts with a wooden spoon. Chill, covered, 4 hours or overnight.

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Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Place 1 portion of the dough on a hard work surface. Use a small amount of the remaining scant 1/4 cup of flour to shape 1 portion of the dough into a log approximately 2 inches in diameter.

Arrange the log along the long side of a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Repeat the process with the remaining portion of the dough.

Pat each log into a rectangle about 1/2 inch in height.

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Place the logs in a preheated 350-degree oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden brown and slightly firm to the touch. Do not over brown. Remove from oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees and let the cookie logs cool for about 10 minutes.

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Slide the logs on to a cutting board using a metal spatula. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. My kids always begged for the “rejects,” which are the ends and any broken biscotti!

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Arrange the slices cut side down on a baking sheet.

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Dry in the oven for 30 minutes; turn. Dry for 30 minutes longer. Both sides should be hard and dry.

If necessary reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees and dry for 1 hour longer. Remembering that you are drying the cookies, not toasting them.

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in re-sealable plastic bags. May freeze for up to 1 month.

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You may use dried cranberries, dried cherries, dried apricots, dried blueberries, dark or golden raisins as well as coconut and crystallized ginger for the chopped dried fruit.

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For the nuts, they all work – almonds, walnuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, pecans, pine nuts, and hazelnuts.

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Be creative. Try cherry almond, cranberry pistachio, golden raisin pecan, hazelnut apricot or your favorite combinations. You may also add cinnamon, poppy seeds, sweet citrus oil, citrus zest and any extracts.

Makes 5 dozen biscotti.

Moro’s Yogurt Cake

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It’s not often when I go to the same restaurant more than once. I’m usually done, and ready to move on to the next! Like my motto – so many restaurants, so little time!

One exception was Moro, in London. I’ve been three times – once was a special celebration for my daughter’s second master’s degree, this one from Sotheby’s (please allow me a little bit of boasting).

Moro is a busy, bustling restaurant in Clerkenwell. The cuisine is North African, so you can just imagine the offerings of courses representing Morocco, Spain, Egypt, and on through the Middle East, but generally referred to as Moorish in origin.

The Moro concept was started by the husband and wife team of Samantha and Samuel Clark, who were inspired by their travels to those regions.

I have so many different food photos from my dining experiences at Moro; I will share a few. The food is vibrant, flavorful, spectacular.

A few of us on that celebratory night ordered A signature dessert to share – Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate, photographed below.

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I can’t recreate that dining experience at Moro with my daughter, but I can make the cake!
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Here it is:
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Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate
Adapted from recipe found online*

3 eggs, separated
70 g or 2 1/2 ounces white sugar
Seeds from 2 vanilla pods
350 g or 12 ounces yogurt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
20 g or approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, sifted
30 g or 1 ounce pistachios, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or 180 degrees Centigrade.

I used a deep-dish pie pan for this dessert, and brushed it with butter lightly.

Find a deep-sided baking tray that will fit the cake tin and you can use as a bain marie.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with 50 g of the sugar (I removed about 1 tablespoon for the egg whites) until thickened and pale.

Stir in the vanilla seeds, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and flour; mix well.


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In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks, then add the remaining sugar and continue to whisk for a moment until the whitesbecome glossy.
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Gently fold the egg whites into the yogurt mix, then pour into the pie pan and place it inside the baking tray.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour the water around the pie pan until it reaches halfway up the sides. Place it in the oven for 20 minutes.
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Sprinkle over the pistachios, then bake for another 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from the water immediately.

Eat warm or at room temperature. The consistency should be a light sponge with custard underneath.
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Sprinkle the cake with pomegranate seeds and serve with a drizzle of yogurt.
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Alternatively, I used a small dollop of marscapone.
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It was May when we shared this yoghurt cake at Moro. But what a perfect holiday dessert this is! All that red and green!
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The cake isn’t the prettiest desert; it looks like a pile of pudding on the plate. But you won’t care once you taste it!
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If you’ve had trouble in the past opening pomegranates, I learned my favorite technique from the blog Chica Andaluza. Her technique worked perfectly!
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* This recipe is in the original Moro cookbook.
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Hazelnut Spatzele

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After the success of my pistachio spatzele, which I made in an attempt to duplicate what I’d enjoyed at a restaurant, I started thinking about other possible spazele made with nuts. And of course I thought of my favorite nut – the hazelnut.

So I used my recipe except substituted hazelnuts for pistachios in the spazele batter, and again used the grater spazele maker. I served them in a gorgonzola cream sauce, and the result was fabulous.

One change I made was a result of a reader who suggested that my spazele could be longer. This is what my pistachio spazele looked like.

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Ginger, from the blog Ginger & Bread, commented… “I make the batter much more runny when using the grater, so that it almost drips through the holes by itself – as a result the Spätzle end up longer and thinner.”

We had a bit of back and forth, because I think that it’s clear in one photo from that post that my batter is on the runny side, but then I thought that because it was my first time using the grater, perhaps I moved the hopper too fast, and that was why my spazele were short.

In any case, I decided to make a runnier batter. And it didn’t work. I ended up with what looked like oatmeal. I’m actually surprised that the batter didn’t completely dissolve in the boiling water.

So now I’m wondering if it’s a factor of ground nuts being in this batter, and will try again using a traditional spazele batter. Because what Ginger says makes sense. It just didn’t work with this batter.

Hazelnut Spazele in a Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

1 cup cream or evaporated milk, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 ounces shelled hazelnuts, peels removed, finely ground
1 cup flour
Pinch of salt

Place the cream, eggs, and hazelnuts in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.
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Meanwhile, have the spazele grater gadget on top of a large pot of boiling water.
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Add the flour to the batter and stir gently. Then pour some batter into the carriage of the grater. Like I mentioned, I tried to move the carriage slower this time.
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I still got the same size spazele. After about 1 minute, using a spider sieve, remove them from the water, let the sieve drain on a tea towel for a second, then place them in a bowl. Continue with the remaining batter.
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I wanted this spazele dish to be simple, so I first added some crumbled Gorgonzola to the spazele, and then I added some warmed cream.


I topped the spazele with some toasted hazelnut halves.
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Serve immediately while still warm.
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I served salt and pepper, but I felt the spazele needed none of either.
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The hazelnuts and the Gorgonzola were a wonderful combination. But just like with the pistachio spazele, I’m not sure the ground nuts made a significant flavor contribution.
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Pistachio Spazele

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When my family was in Park City, Utah, on vacation recently to visit my mother, we had a very special dinner. What made it special was because it was just my mother, my daughter, and myself. That rarely happens because we live in different states.

On our girls’ night out without the guys and the baby, we dined at The Farm, which we’ve been to a few times before, located at The Canyons just outside of Park City. And again it did not fail to please – from the service, to the atmosphere, to the food and wine.

What really got my attention on the menu was a roasted chicken served with a pistachio spazele, sometimes spelled spaetzle. And it was out of this world! (And I usually don’t order chicken at restaurants.)

I wish I had studied the spazele more, photographed it, something. I don’t even remember if there were pistachios in the pasta dough. I just remember that it was delicious, and that there was a crunch of added pistachios.
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We ate our meals ferociously, as if we had not eaten for days! Our appetites were fueled by the hike earlier in the day, and a few cocktails outside with a gorgeous view of the mountains. But I do regret not inspecting the spazele more.

So now I’m back home and I must try out my own creation for pistachio spazele. I googled, but came up only with pistachio pestos.

I decided it was also time to try out spazele using a spazele maker, instead of the larger, quenelle-shaped variety I typically make using a teaspoon.
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I say they’re quenelle shaped, but really they’re more like rustic blobs.

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So here’s what I did.
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Pistachio Spazele
Serves 4, generously

1/2 stick/2 ounces unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 ounces ground pistachios
Pinch of salt
1 cup white flour
Chopped pistachios, approximately 1/3 cup, or to taste

To begin, make the garlic butter for the spazele by gently melting the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all of the spazele. Add the garlic, stir, and then remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.

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To make the pistachio batter, combine the cream, eggs, pistachios and salt in a large bowl. Whisk well.

Before completing the batter, begin heating a large pot of water on the stove. I added a little salt to the water.

Add the flour to the batter until just combined. It should be drippy, but not thin.

Place the spazele gadget over the pot of boiling water, and have the batter next to the pot with a large spoon for scooping. Also have a spider sieve on hand, and a clean dish towel to help remove some of the water. Also have the skillet with the garlic butter nearby.

Begin by scooping a good amount of the batter into the top part of the spazele gadget that moves over the part that looks like a cheese grater. Then slowly move it back and forth. I did this two times and then stopped, so that all of the spazele could cook the same amount of time.


Fortunately the sliding part doesn’t get hot, but the cheese grater part does. It’s a little awkward to use because a hot pad is required. I recommend that you remove the spazele maker from on top of the pot because the boiling water cooks the batter on it.

Once the spazele have cooked about one minute, remove them from the water and place the sieve on the towel to drain a bit.

Then gently toss the spazele into the garlic butter and continue with the remaining batter. Stir the spazele gently and add the chopped pistachios.

Today I served the spazele with peppered pork tenderloin, and it was fabulous.
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I also added a little pistachio “dust” for some color.
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I honestly don’t think the pistachios in the batter did much for the flavor but overall these were probably the best spazele I’ve ever eaten!
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I also thought the spazele themselves would be greener, but that’s okay!


I will definitely make these again!!!
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Christmas Rocky Road

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I happen to really admire and idolize Nigella Lawson. And if you do, too, you know she loves Christmas.

This rocky road recipe is a Nigella recipe that she adapted for her Christmas cookbook, in order to make it more Christmassy! I’ve made it a few times now, and it’s become a holiday favorite for my family.

My favorite Nigella cookbooks are Nigella Kitchen, Feast, and Nigella Christmas. I can’t narrow those down any further. They’re all so unique and wonderfully entertaining, and packed full of hearty and satisfying recipes. Nothing too fancy and fussy. Or fiddly, in British speak.

Nigella had a tv show in the U.S. at one time that I loved to watch. She’s extremely funny, irreverent, and quite a hoot. Nigella embraces just about all food and drink, loves her children, and loves parties. We should really be friends.

So I’m not sure why I made this rocky road recipe the first time, actually. I don’t love candied fruit, marshmallows are strange, I don’t like rocky road ice cream, and we’re not really a sweets family. But am I glad I took a chance on this recipe.

In the past I’ve followed it almost exactly, except for the fact that I’ve always substituted other cookies for the Amaretti, because I could never find them. I used shortbread once, and gingersnaps another time; both turned out fabulous.

But this year I ordered Amaretti in the fall, so I was prepared! Plus I made a few changes to enhance the Christmas theme of these fudgey bars. I used pistachios for their green color, and I added some dried cranberries for their scarlet color. So here’s this year’s version of Nigella’s Christmas Rocky Road:

Christmas Rocky Road

1 bag Amaretti cookies, 7 ounces
1 cup whole pistachios
1 cup whole candied cherries, plus a few extra
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
15 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup Lyle’s golden syrup
Powdered sugar

In a food processor, pulse the amaretti cookies until they are a coarse crumble. Place them in a large bowl.

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Add the pistachios, candied cherries, dried cranberries, and mini marshmallows, and set aside.

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To the top pan of a double boiler, place the chocolate, butter, and golden syrup. Heat about 2” of water in the pot below until it is gently simmering; the water should not boil, and should not touch the pan on top. We are melting the chocolate, not cooking it. Then, place the pan with the chocolate mixture on top. Using a spatula, occasionally stir the mixture as it melts. This should take about 10 minutes.

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Have a 9 x 13” pan ready.

When the chocolate and butter have melted, pour this into the cookie mixture in the large bowl. Using the spatula, fold everything together until completely incorporated. Then pour this mixture into the pan, using the spatula. Push it all around so it fills the corners, and is relative smooth on top. Using any extra cherries, if you wish, push them into the bars in random locations.

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Cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.

When you are ready to serve the bars, slice them into big squares and remove them from the pan. If you wish to cut them smaller, it’s easier to do on a cutting board. If desired, sprinkle the Christmas Rocky Road with sifted powdered sugar.

Baked Mozzarella

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If you have been reading my blog, you know that I love baked brie – of any kind. I’ve posted on two savority varieties, my tomatillo-sauce topped baked brie and a baked brie with sautéed mushrooms.

So this recipe, although not about brie, really caught my attention. First, it is all about hot cheese. Secondly, the topping is very different than anything I’ve ever seen, which made making this recipe even more tempting. Third, it’s about hot cheese.

The recipe comes from this cookbook, Barbecue, with an unknown publishing date. I bought it in London, and it was printed in the UK.

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So you think this recipe would be about meat, but in the last chapter, entitled The Bits on the Side,” I found the recipe I’m making today, which Mr. Reynaud calls “Crumbed Mozzarella.” The reason being, the mozzarella is covered with a mixture of ground pistachios and bread crumbs. Interesting, yes?!!!

I just knew I had to make it. I’ve only made one other recipe from this book, called surf and turf, which were kabobs, and so far, so good. But this recipe was really odd, which forced me to prepare the mozzarella differently. I didn’t, however, mess with the ingredients.
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Baked Crumbed Mozzarella
adapted from Barbecue and Grill

1 – 8 ounce mozzarella ball
1 ounce pistachios
2 teaspoons bread crumbs
Big pinch of thyme
A few grindings of black pepper
1 egg
Olive oil (optional)
Salt (optional)

Remove the mozzarella from the plastic and let it sit on paper towels to dry off.
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Meanwhile, weigh the pistachios.
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Add the bread crumbs, black pepper and thyme.
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Place everything in a food processor and process until almost fine; I like a little texture.

Place the mixture on a plate and set aside.
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Break the egg into a medium bowl, large enough to fit the mozzarella, and set aside.

Get out a small plate and have handy.

Dip the mozzarella in the egg.
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Then place it on the pistachio-bread crumb mixture. Turn the mozzarella around to coat on all sides.
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Then place the mozzarella on the small plate and place the plate in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Get out a skillet that is well seasoned. Heat it over medium heat. Add the mozzarella ball, and begin to brown it on all sides, although you might do a better job than I did. It was supposed to be done on a hot plate, whatever that is, for a total of 7-8 minutes. The browning process, which Mr. Reynaud simply refers to as cooking of the mozzarella ball, I think is also supposed to cook the egg and create a seal for the cheese.
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Right before serving, I gently heated the mozzarella in its serving bowl in the microwave.

Then I served the hot mozzarella with crostini.

note: Mr. Reynaud’s recipe called for 3 mozzarella balls, of undisclosed size, and I just wanted to use one. But I thought it was a poorly written recipe to not have included the weight of the cheese balls. There were other problems as well… But I still love this cookbook!

verdict: The flavors are fabulous! However, I think I’d prefer to chop up fresh mozzarella, place it in an oven-proof shallow baking dish, Top the cheese with pistachio mixture, and bake it. That way, there is more pistachio to mozzarella ratio. Because I find melted mozzarella quite rubbery. I prefer baked brie and camembert…