Monday, November 30, 2009

Fundamentally Frugal Fruit Salad - The Waldorf Salad

I love Waldorf Salad, but the whole thing seems to have gotten to out of control as time has passed from it's birth in 1895 at the Waldorf Hotel of New York. Oscar Tschirky being the proud father of the dish. The last time I ordered, what was suppose to be "Waldorf salad", in a restaurant, it not only had the grapes in it, but raisins, dried cranberries, raspberries, mandarin orange segments and, what I THINK were, Nasturtiums or maybe Marigolds...

Holy Heliotrope! Something so elegant in it's simplicity turned into a "Monet". Have you noticed that from a distance his paintings looks great, then when you get up close, you realize it's just a big mess? Not that I am knocking Claude Monet, I love Monet as a matter of fact. I would be ecstatic if "Le Jardin de Vétheuil" or "Antibes vue de la Salis" were hanging on my wall, but not on my plate... Cause I have to sit too close to my plate to eat. LOL

I think part of the problem is that Americans have lost the ability to make mayonnaise. We BUY mayonnaise and croûtons. (Croûtons are another post, but they are just as easy to make as Mayonnaise) It's just plain crazy I tell ya. It's SO easy to make and infinitely modifiable to enhance the flavor of whatever application it is destined for. All to often though, the bland garbage from a store shelf rears it's ugly head and good food is deprived of great flavoring potential. (sigh, it's a sad thing)

For this particular salad I like to make mayonnaise using 3/4 cup light olive oil and 1/4 cup walnut oil. I also use Champagne vinegar instead of Cider Vinegar or Lemon juice (cause the apples are already tossed with lemon juice). It was deliciously tart, while providing more backbone to the walnuts in the salad. I was extremely pleased with the flavor power of the mayonnaise... Look Ma!! No Nasturtiums!

Let's bring the Waldorf Salad back to it's humble, yet regal roots, shall we?

Waldorf Salad

2 lbs of GrannySmith, Newtown, Gravenstein or Braeburn apples. (anything tart)
5 oz of Celery (diced)
3 oz Homemade Mayonnaise (Seriously, Not Miracle Whip or Hellmens/Bestfoods, it needs to be homemade)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 oz Toasted Walnuts (Roughly Chopped)

Slice and dice apples - Core the apple, slice into quarters then slice each quarter into 3, yielding 12 sections then slice these into about 1/2 inch chunks just like you would for apple pie. This will yield about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs of apples. (I used Organic Braeburns, so I did not peel the apples. If I was using a Granny Smith, with a tougher peel, I would have removed the skin)

Place chopped apples in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice to keep from browning before adding the diced celery.

Add mayonnaise, toss until coated well.

Refrigerate for about 1/2 hour, covered.

Serve on Romaine leaves and sprinkle with chopped walnuts, or (if simply serving to a large group of hungry children) toss walnuts with the salad right before serving (they get soggy if you do it early)

Elegant in it's simplicity, refined in flavor. Delicious!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Cherry Bomb - Truffled Pancetta and Cherry Salad

This salad has become a Thanksgiving staple over the last 8 years, whether I am with my family in Portland or with my friends in San Diego. It's a modified version of a recipe by Michael Chiarello I picked up a many many moons ago. Originally calling for cider vinegar, porcini oil and dried sour cherries soaked in water. I use to make this with dried cranberries, but the only dried cranberries I seem to be able to find the last few years are "sweetened". (YUCK!) So I have returned to using the tart Montmorency cherries.

I have always thought that it was such a waste to soak them in water when it seems like the perfect opportunity to add a little kick, by macerating the cherries/cranberries in SOME sort of alcohol. With unsweetend cranberries I would typically use Orange Muscat, Moscato or Muscat Canelli for soaking, but there is no reason you could not use Gran Marnier to add a hint of orange, Maraschino to lend a bit of almond, or even St. Germaine to add some floral notes to your salad. I would stay out of the heavier liquor though, it may be a bit much for the champagne vinegar and the truffle oil.

Truffled Pancetta and Cherry Salad

1/4 cup dried Sour Cherries (Montmorency)
alcohol for soaking (Be it wine or liqueur, this year I used a wonderful Cranberry wine)
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz Pancetta, diced
1 TB minced Garlic
1 TB chopped fresh Thyme leaves
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup Champagne Vinegar
2 TB Italian White Truffle Olive oil
Kosher Salt
6 cups mixed baby greens (roughly 2 of the pre-prepped bags of salad)
6 ounces fresh goat cheese (Chevre) I usually use Silver Goat brand

In a small bowl, macerate dried cherries in your chosen alcohol, then set aside to soften.

Pour 1 TB olive oil into a medium skillet over medium heat.

Add pancetta and sauté until the fat is rendered out, drain pancetta reserving 1 TB of fat from the pan.

Add 2 TB Olive oil to the skillet & increase the heat to medium-high so you can sauté the Pancetta again until it's crispy; then add the garlic and sauté a little longer until the garlic becomes golden.

Turn heat down to medium-low and add the thyme and 10 – 15 grinds of black pepper, then deglaze the pan with Champagne vinegar, be sure to scrape the pan to release the fond.

Reduce vinegar by half.

Remove from heat and whisk in the Truffle oil and a pinch of Kosher Salt.

Place mixed baby greens in a salad bowl.

Drain the Cherries and add to the salad and toss biefly.

Pour Pancetta mixture over greens and toss quickly, just until the greens begin to wilt.

Crumble goat cheese over the greens and toss lightly.

Serve immediately...

It looks a little messy, but I assure you, it is absolute heaven on a salad fork. It works better served individually with chevre sprinkled on top instead of tossed in, never the less, when there are hungry mouths to feed, sometimes speed and convenience are of the essence. LOL


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Those Spicy Crustaceans - Peperoncini Poppers

I love quick, simple and delicious appetizers. OK, the cutting and cleaning of the peperoncini takes awhile, but the filling is quick and simple. LOL And that leaves me free to concentrate on the meal without worrying that everyone is starving to death.

I wanted to make these with fresh Dungeness crab this year, there just wasn't time with everything else going on, so sacrifices had to be made. As a result, I simply used Bumble Bee fancy white Crab meat from a can. (Don't laugh... Steaming and shelling a crab before Thanksgiving just wasn't feesable) LOL

I think this was originally a Hearty Boys recipe, but I have been making these for so long now, I can't say for sure.

Peperoncini Poppers

30 small Peperoncini or 18-20 Large Peperoncini
8 oz Crab Claw meat (Shredded) or 2 cans of Fancy White meat Crab
8 oz Cream Cheese
8 oz Mascarpone
1 1/2 TB Italian Seasoning
1 inch of Red Pepper Paste
1 or 2 dashes of Tabasco
Chopped Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley or Cilantro

Cut the stems form the Peperoncini and

carefully scrape out the seeds.

Beat Cream Cheese and Mascarpone in a bowl.

Add Crab meat and continue to mix.

Add Italian Seasoning, Red pepper paste, and Tabasco and mix until well blended.

Fill a pastry bag with large star tip or use a zip lock bag with one of the bottom corners cut off.

Fill the interior cavity of the Peperoncini with mixture, over filling slightly.

Dip the filled end of the Peperoncini in the chopped Parsley or Cilantro right before serving and place on serving tray.

Creamy, Spicy and "Crabby".... Delish!!!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Grazin on Grecian Fusion - Greek Cups

OK, I will admit, the only thing that is "Asian" about this recipe is the wonton wrappers, the rest of it is pretty Greek. Be that as it may, these are a quick and delicious appetizer for your dinner party. This was originally a Pampered Chef recipe I stole from a friend. It has suffered a couple of modifications but nothing too earth shaking. The original just wasn't quite "Mediterranean" enough for me. ;)

If you have more time, then these are even better when you forgo the wonton and use Phyllo dough. Simply layer about 4 or 5 sheets together after brushing each sheet with butter, then cut the resulting layered sheet into 3 inch squares, then press those into the mini-muffin tin.

Greek Cups

24 small wonton wrappers (3-inch squares)
1 can Artichoke Hearts, chopped (not the marinated kind)
1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper, chopped
1/3 cup Kalamata Olives, chopped
1/4 cup grated Myzithra
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup Homemade Mayonnaise (I substituted 1/4 with Hazelnut oil)
zest of 1/2 Lemon

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Press wonton wrappers into Mini-Muffin Pan.

Drain artichoke hearts and pat them dry.

Chop Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Red Peppers and Kalamata Olives.

Place in a small bowl and add grated Myzithra and crushed Garlic, then toss together.

Add Mayonnaise and Lemon Zest, stirring to combine.

Spray the wonton dough lightly with a olive oil.
Using a small scoop (1 TB size), fill the cups, 1 scoop to each wonton cup.

Bake 12-14 minutes.

Let cool in pan for 2 minutes.

Remove carefully and serve warm.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Tale of 2 Pies - Honey Butternut Pie

Our tale of two pies continues with -- Honey Butternut Pie, Also known as Good Ol' Pumpkin Pie (I don't think I have every used an 'actual pumpkin' to make pumpkin pie) This is extremely simple and only dirties the food processor bowl, unlike the Mapled Butternut Chiffon Pie in the previous post.

One of the things my dad likes to do with his Pâte Brisée, is to exchange 1/2 of the total Flour (the total being 1 1/2 cups) for Spelt Flour (3/4 cup). He doesn't use the cake flour like I usually do. Spelt is lower in gluten, just like cake flour, so it has the same effect of tenderizing the pastry, but adds that subtle 'nutty' flavor, which is great for this particular pie, as well as apple pie, rhubarb pie, pecan pie and any sort of savory pie. I think I will be filing this factoid away for future reference.

Honey Butternut Pie

(AKA: Pumpkin Pie)
1/2 recipe of Pâte Brisée in a 9 inch pie plate
2 cups of Butternut squash
1/4 cup Orange Blossom Honey
1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Mace
1/8 tsp Ground Ginger
1/8 tsp Ground Clove
2 eggs
1/2 cup Heavy Cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
Make 1/2 recipe of Pâte Brisée (using spelt if you like)and line a 9 inch Pie plate.

Retrieve your food processor with blade attachment;
Add Squash, Dark Brown Sugar, Salt, Honey; process until smooth;

Add the Spices and process some more.

Add 1 egg at a time, processing between each. (you can crack them through the feeding tube)

With open feeding tube, slowly pour in 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

When well blended, stop food processor and pour squash custard into the pie shell.

Bake at 325 degrees for 40 - 45 minutes or until the center still jiggles a little bit (Remember, this is a custard pie, you do not want to over-cook it or it will be dry and it will crack)

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack until room temperature is achieved, then move to the refrigerator.

Serve with Whipped Cream.... Lots and LOTS of Whipped Cream... ;)


P.S. Sadly, this will be my last post until Friday after Thanksgiving. Lot's of prep work for the Dungeness Crab Stuffed Peperoncini, Artichoke Wonton Cups, Prosciutto Wrapped Sweet Potatoes, Truffled Goat Cheese & Pancetta Salad and the Waldorf Salad while settin up the Deep Fryer for the Turkey (Gotta dunk the turkey with water in the pot to measure a safe level fro the Peanut Oil)

All y'all have a blessedly Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Tale of 2 Pies - Mapled Butternut Chiffon Pie

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...... (not really but that is how the opening goes)
-- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Sure it doesn't make a whole lotta sense, but it went with the title, so I put it in anyway.

This is the story of 2 pies and 1 Butternut squash, that came from my dad's garden this year (It was Jarmungous). So my dad peeled, seeded, cubed and steamed it all up, then mashed it with a fork. There was plenty for 2 "pumpkin" pies. So in the interest of having a variety of pies for the "Big Day" my dad made our family's traditional Honey Butternut Pie in the food processor and I made a Mapled Butternut Chiffon Pie.

The only real difference between these 2 recipes is the crust, 1 egg, Maple Syrup and the method of putting everything together (which required Gelatin for the Chiffon). But it created 2 very different pies.

I made the 10 Grain Crust last night so it would have at least 12 hours in the refrigerator to get nice and cold before adding the filling today.

Mapled Butternut Chiffon Pie

1 10-inch 10 Grain Crust
2 Cups Butternut Squash
1/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
3 large Eggs, Separated
1/4 cup Grade B Maple Syrup
2 1/4 tsp unflavored Gelatin
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Mace
1/8 tsp ground Ginger
1/8 tsp Clove
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Heavy Cream (this should yield about 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine Butternut squash, Dark Brown sugar, and Egg Yolks...

processing until smooth.

In a small bowl combine Maple Syrup, Gelatin, Spices and Salt;

In the top of a double boiler (bain-marie) over medium heat, combine the Squash mixture and Maple syrup mixture.

Stirring constantly, cook over, but not in the simmering water until the mixture begins thickening or the temperature reaches 155 degrees; Remove from bath and pour into a clean bowl to stop the cooking process; cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temp, then refrigerate for 3 hours.

Prepare a Swiss meringue by whisking the Egg Whites with 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar over simmering water until they reach 140 F degrees.

Then remove the bowl from the heat and continue beating until the egg whites reach stiff peaks.

Remove squash custard from refrigerator and break up the mass with a whisk, then grab a big spatula.

In a well chilled bowl whip heavy cream until stiff.

Fold Swiss Meringue into the squash mixture,

followed by the whipped cream;

Fill the pie shell and refrigerate until fully set.

Yes, this recipe uses a lot of bowls. ;) But it is deliciously light and fluffy and well worth the extra load in the dishwasher. LOL If you would prefer to only dirty the food processor bowl, check out my dad's Honey Butternut Pie.