Sunday, May 19, 2019

A TRIO OF DELECTABLE DESSERTS!

PANNA COTTA
This was the dessert I served at Easter along with 2 little bunny (sugar) cookies. Here's the recipe for the cookies. http://cookwithcindy.blogspot.com/search?q=sugar+cookies I make them for lots of special occasions. They are relatively easy for rolled cookies and dress up well!

Panna Cotta in Italian means "Cooked Cream". The texture was perfectly smooth and creamy, but they didn't set up as well as I would have liked. My main refrigerator in the kitchen was bursting at the seems with food so I placed the Panna Cottas in my small under-counter fridge that is outside to chill. It was an unusually hot day so that fridge wasn't quite cold enough to set them properly, but no one complained and they tasted delicious! I increased the recipe by half-again since I was serving 10.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 Tbsps. (which is 1 1/2 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
3 Tbsp. cold water
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla

Preparation:
In a small saucepan sprinkle gelatin over water and let stand about 1 minute to soften. Heat gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin is dissolved and remove pan from heat.
In a large saucepan bring cream, half and half, and sugar just to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring so it doesn't scorch. Remove pan from heat and stir in gelatin mixture and vanilla. Divide cream mixture among 10 (1/2 cup) ramekins and cool to room temperature. Chill ramekins, covered at least 4 hours or overnight. Next time I will make the night before serving!

To serve: Dip ramekins, 1 at a time, into a bowl of hot water for 3 seconds. Run a knife around edge of each ramekin and invert ramekin onto the center of a small plate. I served them in small, crystal bowls with about 4 Tbsp. of Raspberry Coulis on the bottom of the bowl and also topped the Panna Cottas with additional sauce and a few fresh raspberries. A coulis is simply a strained puree of fruit or veg. Panna Cotta is very mild since it is mainly just cream so this vibrant sauce was the perfect spark for this dessert.

I found this recipe online (https://thecafesucrefarine.com/easy-raspberry-coulis/) and thought it interesting that frozen raspberries are recommended over fresh. According to this Blogger they render a more intense raspberry flavor and ensure a deep, rich red color.
Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. water
12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed
I nabbed this photo from their website as I
didn't have time to take one of my own while serving.

Preparation:
Combine sugar and water in a 1 cup microwave-save cup or bowl. Stir to combine. Mixture will be very thick. Cook in the microwave on high power for 2 minutes. Stir for 5-10 seconds to dissolve sugar crystals.
Combine frozen raspberries and hot syrup in a blender. Blend until mixture is smooth and pureed. Pour the puree through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium-sized bowl. Pouring does not really occur as the mixture is quite thick. You will need to stir and push the solids with the back of a large spoon or rubber spatula until all of the liquid has been pushed through. This will take several minutes and was, by far, the most difficult part of putting this Coulis together, but worth every minute! Discard the seeds. Store in the refrigerator up to a week or in the freezer for 2-3 months.

Next up...
DARK CHOCOLATE AVOCADO MOUSSE
 
This is the most unlikely combination of ingredients, but I happened to have 2 very ripe avocados that I needed to use so went to the web to look for something different. You would never know there are avocados in this decadent chocolate dessert and I recommend taking the word "avocado" out of the title and presenting as a DARK CHOCOLATE MOUSSE! Very 'moussey', sublime texture and intense chocolate flavor with NO hint of avocado!

Ingredients:
2 large very ripe avocados
4 oz. 70% cacao baking chocolate melted
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup Almond milk (I used Coconut Almond milk)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Sea Salt

Preparation:
In a food processor, combine avocados melted chocolate, cocoa powder, maple syrup, almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon and a pinch of Sea Salt. Puree until creamy. Spoon the mousse into 4 small ramekins and chill for at least 1 hour.
 

I think this would be really yummy served with a coffee whipped cream with slivers of chocolate or toasted nuts for texture contrast.

We'll finish today with a...
MANGO SORBET
Ingredients:
4 1/2 to  cups very ripe mangos (about 2 lbs.) peeled and diced
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar*
1 tsp. fresh lime juice (more or less to taste)
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt (more or less to taste)
* The mangos I used were very sweet so I used less sugar.
Preparation:
Pack diced mangoes in a blender with water and blend on high speed until very smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup, pushing puree through strainer with a spoon until you have 3 cups of puree. Reserve the remainder for another use. (Great in a smoothy!)
Transfer strained puree into a large bowl and whisk in sugar until well dissolved. Whisk in lime juice and salt adjusting flavors. Chill the puree in the fridge until very cold; 2-3 hours or overnight. Churn in ice cream maker according to your machine. Mine takes about 20-25 minutes for both ice cream or sorbet.
Transfer to an airtight container and chill in freezer at least 4 hours before serving.
 
WE'RE HEADING BACK TO IRELAND IN LESS THAN 2 WEEKS, BUT BEFORE I GO WANT TO SHARE ONE MORE RECIPE FROM SOUTH OF THE BORDER...MOLE!
 
STAY TUNED...
 

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

"WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS, MAKE LEMONADE!"

Or in my case...
LIMONCELLO

Limoncello puts a smile on your face!
This was much easier to make than I expected and only took 4 days to cure! The flavor is bright and refreshing. I cut down on the recommended sugar so not too sweet. It was a perfect ending to our Easter feast. And thanks to my friend Leslie Jackson these lemons were freshly picked!

Ingredients:
10 lemons
1 (750 ml.) bottle vodka
2 cups sugar
2 cups water

Preparation:
Using a sharp pairing knife remove the skin from the lemons in long strips. Reserve the lemons for another use. I juiced them to make the Lemon Sorbet. Trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.
This can be done by scraping the inside of the lemon peel with the pairing knife. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for at least 4 days at room temperature.
Make the simple syrup:
Stir 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water together in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the simple syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to a month.

I let my lemons steep in the vodka for 5 days. After doing a little research I learned that 4 days is the magic number and although you can let it steep longer there is no significant benefit; meaning it has become as lemony as it will be after only 4 days.

The palate cleansing course I served for this year's Easter dinner was a...

LEMON SORBET

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups water
3 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preparation:
In a large saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil stirring until sugar melts; about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the lemon zest and 1 1/2 cups lemon juice to the sugar water mixture. Cool completely in fridge for an hour or overnight. Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker for about 20 minutes or according to your manufacturers instructions. The mixture will be quite thin, but comes together nicely in the freezer.  Place in the freezer and chill for at least 4 hours.

If you don't have an ice cream maker you can freeze this in a shallow pan in the freezer stirring every 20 minutes with a fork until crystals have formed; about 3 hours. It then becomes a granita rather than a (churned) sorbet, but just as delicious!

If you were making this as a dessert you'd want to add a bit more sugar. As a palate cleanser it was perfect!

Next time I will share the Easter dessert course
...a Classic Italian Panna Cotta.
 
Until then, keep enjoying life in the kitchen!
 
And here are a few more shots from our celebration!
Deb giving the Creamy Parmesan Orzo with Asparagus a mighty stir.
Dorita and Karen relaxing before dinner is served.
The main event: Lamb stuffed with spinach,
feta, pine nuts, bread crumbs, and herbs.
 
Glasses awaiting vino.
Our angel vessel...a loving anniversary gift from my dear husband.
 
 




Friday, May 3, 2019

CATHERINE DE MEDICI'S TUSCAN CHICKEN LIVER PATE!

In Italian, fegatini means livers. This humble dish using left-over and inexpensive ingredients is found throughout Italy.
CROSTINI DI FEGATINI or CROSTINI TOSCANI

This is an ancient recipe from Pellegrino Artusi's 120 year old cookbook, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well. Some believe the original recipe is from Florentine noblewoman, Catherine de Medici. When she married Henry II in 1533 she brought this family recipe with her to France where the French reinterpreted it to become what is now their recipe for foie gras. Artusi's recipe calls for chicken livers and because in Italy livers are often sold with hearts you can also add the hearts to the pate. I found this recipe online (www.emikodavies.com/blog/artusi-may-tuscan-chicken-liver-pate/ where measurements were added as Artusi simply lists ingredients, not amounts. I increased the recipe by half and added a few of my own ingredients (capers, anchovies, brandy) and this is what I came up with.
Before serving I topped the pate with finely chopped chives.
This is not a smooth pate, but I did use the hand emulsion blender to combine ingredients. The recipe calls for chopping all ingredients, once cooked, with a mezzaluna or large kitchen knife, which would leave the pate even more chunky. You could also place all cooked ingredients in a food processor and then push through a fine mesh sieve to get a really smooth consistency. I liked it a little rough since pate is the quintessential rustic dish of Italy! The original recipe does not use anchovies, capers or brandy, but as I did more research realized that every family throughout Italy has their own recipe for pate with slightly different ingredients.
Here are most of the ingredients for the pate.
Ingredients:
1 1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
3 slices of pancetta, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter (or olive oil)
1 1/2 lbs. chicken livers, cleaned
1 cup chicken stock
About 8 pieces of dried porcini mushroom, soaked in warm water to soften and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. Panko bread crumbs
Juice of one lemon
3 Tbsp. brandy, bourbon, or cognac (I used brandy.)
4 drained anchovies
1 Tbsp. capers
Salt/Pepper to taste

Loaf of bread, such as a baguette for the crostini (day old is what they would use in Italy)

Preparation:
Finely chop the shallot, celery, carrot and parsley and saute these gently in pan with the pancetta in the butter.

Season with a pinch of salt. When the vegetables are soft, add the whole chicken livers and continue cooking, stirring occasionally to brown them, about 3-5 minutes. Add the brandy, if using, and watch as the brandy may flame up.

Livers all cleaned and porcini mushrooms soaking.

Once browned remove the mixture from the pan and place on a chopping board together with the softened porcini mushrooms, anchovies and capers, if using, and finely chop everything with the mezzaluna or, as I did, blend right in the pan with a hand blender.
Return the chopped pate mixture to the pan, add the stock, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and season to taste. Continue cooking on low, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes more. This mixture should be quite tender and juicy so do not allow it to reduce too much so that it becomes dry. Add more stock if needed. The pate will firm up as it cools.

In the meantime slice the baguette in 1/2 inch pieces and gently warm in a low oven until dry to the touch. You can make the pate a day ahead of time. It keeps well in the fridge for 5-7 days.
I served the pate with additional capers, a nice French Dijon mustard and a delicious onion and apricot jam.

ONION AND APRICOT JAM
Ingredients:
1 cup shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup leek, white part only, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. vegetable or other mild oil
1/4 cup white wine
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. Apple Cider vinegar
4 Tbsp. chicken stock
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
1/4 cup water, more or less

Preparation:
Saute shallot and leek in oil over medium high heat until tender and slightly caramelized, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a low simmer. Add white wine, lemon juice, honey, sugar, vinegar, chicken stock and apricots. Cook gently for another 10 minutes until all ingredients are well combined. Add water by the tablespoon to loosen jam to desired consistency.
PATE IS A PERFECT STARTER FOR ANY OCCASION
AND IT WAS A BIG HIT AT THIS YEAR'S
EASTER CELEBRATION!

UP NEXT:
LIMONCELLO and LEMON SORBET