Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Goin' Nuts for Blue Cheese - Gorgonzola & Walnut Tart

 Every once in awhile, I get a hankerin' for something SUPER cheesy.  Normally, when this happens, I turn to Macaroni & Cheese in all it's myriad permutations.  After all, what better way is there to showcase cheese than pouring it's rich, gooey and melty deliciousness over a mound of pasta? 

But if you are a blue cheese lover, as I am, this tart that will roll your cheese wheel right out the door.  It's so rich, creamy and cheesy that even I can only eat a small slice, to be accompanied by Watercress soup and a very VERY large salad, to break up the cheesiness. 

This is a French tart that has no equal.  You can consume your whole daily caloric intake in one fell swoop with this one.  But it's sooooooooo good.  The filling is simply a cheese laden custard (similar to a quiche) that is them sprinkled with toasty walnuts to add some crunch.

I actually prefer Gorgonzola for this one.  It seems to me that Gorgonzola melts a little smoother than some other crumbly Blue Cheeses.  I also think that it's flavor profile better pairs with toasted walnuts and the peppercorns in the pastry crust. Which reminds me.  It's not simply the tart filling that is rich and high in calories, the crust I like to use for this is my infamous Sour Cream/Peppercorn pastry dough that I usually reserve for certain quiches and my Asparagus / Gruyere Tart

Gorgonzola & Walnut Tart

1 recipe for Sour Cream Peppercorn Pastry Crust
1 cup (100g) Walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup (236ml) Heavy Cream
3 large Eggs
2 large Egg Yolks
6 oz (170g) Gorgonzola, crumbled (you can use Stilton, Saga, or Roquefort if you prefer)
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F (200C) degrees.
Meanwhile, prepare the Sour Cream Peppercorn Pastry dough; roll the pastry out to fit a 10 inch quiche dish or a fluted tart pan and chill while the oven continues to preheat.

When the oven comes to temperature, toast the walnuts for 5 minutes.

When the Walnuts are finished, remove the pastry from the refrigerator, line with foil or parchment and fill with beans or weights then bake for 10 minutes.

Remove the foil and beans/rice/weights and bake for an additional 5 minutes. (just until the crust is cooked, but still very pale)

Reduce the oven temperature to 350F (180C) degrees.
Whisk the Eggs, Egg Yolks and Heavy Cream together in a small bowl.

Add the crumbled Gorgonzola and stir.

Season with Salt and Pepper, then pour the filling into the warm tart shell.

Sprinkle with toasted Walnuts.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on your oven, just until the top begins to brown.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before attempting to cut.

Delightfully cheesy and UBER rich.  This is most definitely NOT a diet food, that is for sure.


Friday, July 26, 2013

Delicious Risotto, Literally - Golden Delicious Risotto

I am a product of American Pop Culture.  I admit it, I have come to terms with it, and accept this in myself.

Every time someone mentions Pork Chops, I hear Peter Brady's imitation of Humphrey Bogart in the back of my mind saying, "Pork Chopsh and Apple Shauce, ain't that Shwell?"  And thus it is that, through the Brady Bunch, I learned to equate apples with pork.  True, there is the proverbial whole roasted pig with the apple in it's mouth, but I don't normally roast a whole pig.  And by "normally" I mean never.  So, for me, it was the Brady Bunch. 

Now, I am not saying that I actually "eat" said apple sauce with my pork chops.  It's not that I think the combination particularly odd or anything.  After all, if Peter Brady thought it was "shwell", then it must be, right?  Cause it was on TV, right?  If it wasn't "shwell", then why would the writers give him that line?  No, it's simply because I rarely have apple sauce around the house, and if I do, it has usually been utilized for Apple Sauce Cake or Apple Muffins, or some such other tidbit of deliciousness.  But, I finally got to wondering about the pairing of apples with pork and decided to give it a try.

Now, me being me, I had to walk a path less traveled by; possibly not at all...  By anyone... Ever.  This led to a little experiment (you saw that comin' didn't ya?) with a Golden Delicious Apple.

Now I am not a big fan of the Golden Delicious Apple, simply because they are so sweet.  I loved them as a kid, but only when they were green.  And let's face it... Produce moves around this country so fast now days that the farmers don't pick things as green as they use to.  Which has it's pluses, but in this case, the Golden Delicious Apples in the stores are almost always fully ripe.  But for this recipe, I thought I could get away with the apple being on the sweeter side cause I was gonna hit it hard with a crisp white wine and "savor-ize" it up with some Parmigiano-Reggiano and Mascarpone. 

If those ingredients ring any bells you probably guessed right.... I made an Apple Risotto.

The verdict on the experiment?  I thought it was tasty... So did my little brother... Savory with a hint of spiced sweetness.  Then again, we both like Cheddar on our Apple Pie so this dish is a natural fit.  My sister-in-law is not a risotto fan, no matter what the flavor so she opted out completely.  Dad was on the fence and Mom hated it.  I don't know... I would call 2 "likes", 1 undecided and 1 "no" a fairly favorable reception considering this side dish's unorthodoxy.

I am still trying to decide if I should have forewent the "hint of cinnamon" and opted for a "whisper of nutmeg" instead.  Personally do not care for nutmeg with apple.  Mace, yes, Nutmeg, no.  I am really more of a Cinnamon person.  I love sneaking Cinnamon in savory dishes when no one is looking.  Any excuse to buck the "system" that has regulated poor Cinnamon to only sweets.  Nutmeg, on the other hand, shows up in Bechamel as well as Spaetzle, Quiche (Lorraine and Florentine) and Scalloped Potatoes (like Pommes de Terre à la Dauphinoise) with a frequency that attests to it's escape from the same predicament as the ill-fated Cinnamon.

Delicious Risotto

4 cups Chicken Stock
2 TB Olive Oil
3/4 cup Golden Delicious Apple, peeled, cored and diced
2 TB unsalted Butter
1 Shallot, minced
1 cup Arborio Rice
1/2 cup Sauvignon Blanc (I chose one in the Green Apple and Gooseberry range)
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 TB Mascarpone
1/16 tsp Cinnamon or 2 grates of Nutmeg (your choice)

Bring the Chicken Stock to a simmer in a small saucepan and dice the apple.

In a large skillet, heat 1 TB of the Olive oil over medium-low flame.

Add the apple and cook for about 10 minutes, just until it begins to soften slightly.

Remove the apple from the skillet and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 TB Olive Oil to the pan along with the Butter.

When foaming subsides, add the shallot and sweat until soft.

Add the Rice and saute for a couple minutes, until it begins to smell nutty.

Add the Wine and stir until it is absorbed.

Begin adding stock, 1 ladle at a time, stirring until each ladel-ful has been absorbed before adding the next.

After 10 minutes of cooking (when the risotto is about 1/2 done) add the diced Apple to the rice, then continue adding stock and stirring until the risotto is still a little al dente. (you may not use all the stock)

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano, Mascarpone and Cinnamon or Nutmeg.

Cover and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes.

Stir everything together and serve.

Peter Brady was right, Apple and Pork really do play together well.  

So the next time you are serving Pork chops, or Pork Loin chops or even a Pork Tenderloin, I urge you to give this a try.

Yep, Pork Chopsh and Apple Rishoto, it's Shwell.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Beat the Heat With Buckwheat - Soba Dressed in Ginger & Lime

It's hot!  I don't like hot. Hot makes me sweat, which makes me uncomfortable.  Hot makes it harder to breath, which makes me uncomfortable.  Hot gives me a sunburn, which makes me really uncomfortable.  Hot makes me grumpy, which makes others uncomfortable.  Hot suppresses my appetite, which makes me more grumpy, cause I don't like being suppressed, and neither does my appetite.   But, I have found a solution to all this uncomfortable suppression, with a nice cold pasta dish.

This is not your conventional "pasta" salad.  Nope.  Believe it or not, I find most "Pasta Salads" to be over laden with "stuff" and that makes them too heavy to eat when it's hot.  Ironic, no?  But Japanese pasta/noodles are a little different.  They are much more delicate in texture, so they do not respond well to heavy mayonnaise or sour cream based dressings.  They also don't react well to the overabundance of adjuncts with which their Italian brethren are often assailed.  One must treat them with a lighter touch, thus making the "salad", if you want to call it that, much more light and refreshing.

I have recently stocked my cupboards with a variety of noodles from the familiar Thai Rice Sticks (Mai Fun) to Japanese Soba (Buckwheat) and Somen to Chinese Mein and Fun See (Mung Bean).  All of which are destined for cold noodle applications in an effort to "beat the heat".

This brings up an interesting point.  When Pasta (being Italian Semolina Noodles) is served cold, it's usually considered a "pasta salad".  So if you serve Asian noodles cold, is that considered a salad as well...?  a noodle salad?  or is it just "cold noodles"?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Today, I chose to keep it simple with a Ginger-Lime dressing over Japanese Soba (Buckwheat noodles) with a few Green Onions thrown in for some crunch.  I love just about anything made with buckwheat; like Galette à l'Oeuf or Crepes Flambé with Maple; but I especially love buckwheat noodles, like Pizzoccheri alla Valtellinesi.  However, there is NO way I am gonna try to make THAT in this heat... That is definitely a winter-time dish.  Now, with Soba on the menu, I can enjoy the unparalleled deliciousness of buckwheat even in the heat of summer

Soba in Ginger-Lime Dressing

3 TB Lime Juice
2 TB finely grated Ginger
2 TB Peanut or Light Olive Oil
1 1/2 TB Tamari
1 TB Sesame Oil
2 tsp Honey
3-4 drops Hot Chili Oil
4-6 Green Onions, sliced on the bias
6 oz Soba (Japanese Buckwheat Noodles) which was 2 bundles out of a package

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot set over high heat. (do not Salt the water)

Combine Lime Juice, Ginger, Peanut Oil, Tamari, Sesame Oil, Honey and Chili Oil in a small bowl.

Whisk until homogeneous and set aside.

Slice the Green Onions on the bias into 1/2 to 3/4 inch pieces, set aside.

When water boils, drop the Soba into the water.

Cook for 3 minutes (I know the package says 4, but 3 minutes is plenty) then drain and spray with cold water to stop the cooking and cool them off;  allow the water to drain completely.

Place noodles in a bowl.

Drizzle with the dressing.... (re-whisk the dressing if necessary)

Toss to coat well.

Add the Green Onions.....

Toss again...


Great tasting and good for you... Buckwheat contains a full set of biologically available essential amino acids, which puts it on par with Soy.  Unlike Soy however, Buckwheat doesn't require over-processing (Tofu) or fermentation (Tempeh & Miso, mmmmmm Miso) to convert it into a beneficial food.  Buckwheat is also rich in Iron, Zinc and Selenium as well as the antioxidant Rutin.  Most importantly, at least in this case, it's cold.

The really think the world needs more Buckwheat... I'm just sayin'


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Little Green Apples in My Cake - Apple Cake with Bourbon Sauce

This delicious apple cake is courtesy of Linda Monforte, one of the ladies from the church we attended when I was a child.  It is my favorite apple cake.  Granted, she did not pour bourbon sauce over it when bringing it to church potlucks, but I think it is a welcome addition to this delectable apple cake.

I find my favorite apples for this cake, even though they are not necessarily green, are Braeburns or Winesaps, as they seem to hold their shape a little better when cooking in the batter.  This is one of my strange quirks.  I like my Pie apples tart and cooked completely and my Cake apples a little sweeter and to have some tooth to them, so I know they are there.  I think it has to do with the nature of the two desserts.

With Cake, the cake itself is soft and spongy, so the apples cannot be cooked to mush or the whole thing would just be a soggy mess.  A little tooth to the apples lends interesting texture that helps to bridge from the spongy cake to the crunchy nuts. 

In Pie, the flaky pastry crust lends the contrast to the softer, completely cooked apple filling.  If the apples are toothy, or worse, still crunchy, then you end up with a big slice of "ewww!" on your plate that NO amount of cheddar cheese, caramel sauce or ice cream can fix.

Not that I am opinionated or anything.  ;-)

Linda Monforte's Apple Cake

2 large Eggs
1/2 cup (118ml) Light Oil (such as Safflower)
2 cups (400g) granulated Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
2 cups (250g) AP Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Salt
1 cup (110g) Pecans, chopped
4 cups (500g) Braeburn Apples, peeled, cored and chopped (about 4 apples)
Bourbon Sauce (see below)
Whipped Cream

Butter and Flour a 13x9 inch baking dish. (it's vintage Corningware P-21 for me, but a Pyrex dish will work too)

Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees
In a small bowl, combine Flour, Baking Soda, Cinnamon and Salt; whisking to combine.

In a medium bowl, combing Eggs, Oil, Sugar and Vanilla, whisking well until homogeneous.

Toast the Pecans for 8 minutes in the oven, then give them a nice rough chop.

Peel, core and chop the apples, then place them in a large bowl.

Pour both the Flour mixture and the Egg/Oil mixture over the Apples.

Fold them all together until there are no dry spots, then add Pecans and fold until well dispersed.

Pour the batter into your prepared Baking Dish.

Smooth the batter out a little, so it's level.

Bake for 45 minutes to 55 minutes.

Until all nicely browned and delicious looking, or until a toothpick comes out with only a few moist crumbs.

Place on a rack and allow it  cool while you make Bourbon sauce.....  OK, it's really more of a Bourbon Caramel Sauce, but, well...  It's a saucy caramel. (in more ways than one)

Bourbon Sauce

1 cup (200g) Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup (100g) Brown Sugar
2/3 cup (156ml) Water
4 oz (113g) Unsalted Butter, cut into chunks
1/4 cup (59ml) Bourbon (I like Maker's Mark)
1/3 cup (78ml) Heavy Cream

Combine both Sugars and Water in a medium saucepan set over medium flame.

Stir until the Sugars dissolve and the syrup comes to a boil.

Place a thermometer in the syrup and bring to 300 F Degrees.

When the caramel hits 300, remove from the heat and stir in the butter with a whisk (

Once the butter has melted into the caramel and there is no further risk of crystallization,

remove the sauce from the heat and add the Bourbon and Heavy Cream. (careful, it will bubble and steam again

Pour into a heat proof pitcher and allow the caramel to cool.


Once the Apple Cake has finished baking, and has cooled to room temperature, cut 3-inch square pieces and place on a plate,

drizzling liberally with warm Bourbon Sauce...

and top with whipped cream... Oh yeah, baby!