Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Line Caught Alaskan Halibut with Fennel and Clementine Gremolata and Saffron Rice

Line Caught Alaskan Halibut with Fennel and Clementine Gremolata and Saffron Rice

My mother in law has some friends who recently spent an extended time working and playing in Alaska.  One of the bonuses of their return was a package of Halibut caught, flash frozen and shipped back for us to enjoy.  In New Hampshire Halibut is hard to get and very expensive so we planned a special dinner for this treat.  The saffron for the rice was a thank you gift grown 5000 miles east of Alaska in Spain.  These tiny threads plucked from the crocus add a delicious scent and flavor to rice.

Boxes of Cutie Pies (Clementines) have been on our kitchen counter all winter and although they are delicious plain I have been wondering about other ways to use these sweet clementines.  The gremolata is a small salad, a combination of fennel, clementines, parsley and lemon.  The fish is dipped in flour, salt and pepper and quickly sautéed in a hot pan.  Make sure when you slice the fennel you remove the core at the base of the bulb – it is tough and not as good for this fresh salad.


2 Clementines, peeled and chopped
Juice of one clementine
2 Tablespoons olive oil
¼ Cup fennel bulb thinly sliced
1/3 Cup fresh parsley – torn – not chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt

Mix all ingredients and set aside. 

Saffron Rice

Saute in olive oil:
¼ cup each diced celery, carrot, onion for 5 – 7 minutes
½ teaspoon saffron threads
1 Cup chicken stock
2/3 cup water
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup basmati (I prefer the Indian Basmasti to the California Basmati)

Cook on very low heat  for approximately 20 – 25 minutes until the rice has absorbed all the liquid.

For the fish:

Whisk a flour mixture of:
½ cup all purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Pour the flour mixture into a pie plate

Heat a large sauté pan (large enough to hold your fish).  You want the pan quite hot but not smoking.  Quickly dredge the fish in the flour mixture on both sides.  Put the fish, skin side up in the sauté pan and brown the fish for 2 – 3 minutes.  You want a nice brown crunchy crust.  Flip the fish to other side and remove from heat after the other side develops a nice crust.  Remember you want to cook this quickly so the fish doesn't dry out or over cook.  Remove from heat immediately when the fish is done.  

Scoop a portion of rice onto the plate.  Lay one piece of fish over the top and finish with a generous spoonful of the gremolata.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Snowballs in Hell – Marzipan Filled Chocolate Snowballs and a Longing for Spring

In Canto VI of Dante’s The Divine Comedy – Part I, Hell, Dante enters the third circle where he finds the souls of the Gluttonous. The sin of those souls was a single minded dedication to self-indulgence. Self-indulgence is not a sin unknown to food bloggers, chefs and foodies. We eat, sometimes with abandon and it is not uncommon to have a glass of wine or two or four along with our meals. Why Dante and the Snowballs in Hell? This 13th century poet placed the gluttonous sinners in a place that was continuously pelted by rain, hail, sleet and snow. This is the exact (except the hail) weather we experienced over the last 24 hours. Hmmm.

I have had a can of almond paste in my pantry for quite some time and although I have a nice recipe for almond macaroons I really wanted chocolate. This marzipan filled chocolate snowball is the result. The filling is very rich (and gluttonous) – I cut the sweetness of the almond paste with a cup of freshly ground almonds. One cookie is more than enough unless you want to end up with a soul continuously pelted by hail and snow and fearing the three-headed dog Cerberus who clutches and rips at the souls found there. Even the most hearty New Englanders are ready for spring and so am I.

Chocolate Snowballs with Marzipan Filling

1 7oz can of Almond Paste
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 Tablespoons milk or ½ and ½
1 egg yolk
1 cup almonds processed in food processor until fine

Combine all ingredients in a standing mixer until they form a smooth ball. Set aside.

Chocolate Cookie:

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
½ teaspoon espresso powder
Set aside.

2 oz unsweetened chocolate
¾ cup unsalted butter
(microwave 45 seconds and whisk)

Cool chocolate mixture slightly and add:
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Then add the sifted flour and cocoa mixture to the wet ingredients. Chill for 30 minutes.

While the dough is chilling take the marzipan filling and roll into balls slightly smaller than a marble. You will have too much filling and can freeze the leftovers for another use (a great filling for croissants!).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Put approximately ½ cup of confectionery sugar in a shallow bowl for rolling finished cookies.

Take a tablespoon of chocolate dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the ball in you palm until it forms a circle about 2”+ in diameter. Place one of the marzipan balls in the center and form the chocolate dough around it. You may need to add a small additional piece of chocolate dough to cover the last of the marzipan. Roll the dough in your palm to form a ball. Roll generously in the confectioner’s sugar.

Place cookies on lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes until cracks form in cookies and they are slightly firm to touch (you don’t want them to get too dry). Pour a little of your favorite beverage and wait for spring.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Apple Muffins with Pecan Crumb Topping - Exquisitely Delicious

Deliciousness.  Some foodies use this word to describe food that has everything going for it, layered flavors, a combination of crunch and gooeyness and perfect ingredients.  What could be more perfect than bits of apple cooked into pockets of applesauce, a cinnamon infused batter and a pecan crumb topping?  For apple muffins, I have found nothing that tops this recipe!  It started with a base for a peach muffin recipe but adapts so well to apples or blueberries.  Watch the size of your apple pieces - if they are too large they will be firm and chewy.  Also make sure you mix the butter thoroughly into the crumb mix so that the butter can hold little pieces together as they bake.

The beautiful little papers that wrap these muffins have their own story.  I did some work at my mom's restaurant, The Old Courthouse, last summer.  I noticed an almost empty sleeve of beautiful brown parchment muffin cups in the pantry and asked if I could have some to make some blueberry muffins later in the week.  The sleeve was almost empty and they needed the remaining cups for Sunday Brunch.  Mom offered me the outer wrapper so I could buy them online.  I wasn't able to find them, lost the wrapper and forgot all about them.  When Christmas rolled around imagine my delight when I discovered my very own sleeve of these wrappers in my stocking!  Thanks Mom.  These  Natural Tulip Cups are available at the Web Restaurant Store.  They open up to create a little crumb collector, perfect for these messy but delicious apple muffins.   Enjoy!

Apple Muffins with Pecan and Cinnamon Crumb

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare muffin tin with paper muffin cups or spraying with nonstick spray.

For the crumb topping, mix in a small bowl:
In a separate microwave safe bowl:
In a large mixing bowl sift and set aside:
Into the remaining 1/2 cup butter add:
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1/3 cup brown sugar (break up any clumps by hand before adding butter)
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Melt 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of butter

Pour 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into the topping mixture, mix until combined and set aside.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup milk ( I use 2%)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Peel and dice into pieces between 1/4" and 1/3" 1 large apple.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients until just mixed and then add the chopped apple.

Fill muffin cups (this recipe makes 10 muffins).  Top with crumb mix (at least 1 tablespoon + on each muffin).

Bake for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown and if top is depressed it bounces back.  Enjoy!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Snow Storm Blondies

Hurray a snow day! Another winter storm is raging outside but in the kitchen the oven is still warm and the house has a pleasant sweet chocolate and vanilla smell through out.  Today is a good day for comfort food and I decided to start off with a simple but delicious dessert (and snack) of blondies.  In The Food Lover's Companion, Blondies are referred to as "a dense, chewie, cake like cookie" that is a vanilla or butterscotch cousin to Brownies that are flavored with chocolate.   So what do you call a Blondie that has all three flavors?  A delightful storm of chocolate, vanilla, pecans and butterscotch with a little espresso powder to round it all out - Snow Storm Blondies!

I've been working with a  recipe from King Arthur Four and made a few adjustments (I'm on my second batch over a few days).   The butterscotch chips are sweet and I decided to reduce the sugar in the recipe.  I also changed the cooking time and temperature.  It is important to have Blondies that are just barely cooked.  You want a little crunch on the outside and some chewiness in the center.

Snow Storm Blondies

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Lightly spray a 9 X 13 glass baking pan

In a mixing bowl sift and combine:

2 3/4 cups of flour (and of course I used King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (I use Medaglia D'Oro)

Measure out and set aside:

1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup broken pecans (I broke them by hand instead of chopping)

In a large glass bowl melt 13 tablespoons of unsalted butter.

Whisk in:

3 eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 tablespoon white or apple cider vinegar

Add to the butter mixture:
1 3/4 cups brown sugar (packed into measuring cups)
1/4 cup white sugar

Stir until completely combined and then add the flour mixture.  Stir until just combined and then add the nuts and chips.  Spread the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 35 minutes.  You can check the Blondies with a toothpick inserted in the center.  The toothpick should come out clean but not dry.

Allow to completely cool before cutting.  Now it is time to start dinner.  A small pork roast with a fig and port sauce - maybe a post for another day.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Black Bean and Corn Chili

What better way to finish a cold blustery day than with a great bowl of chili?  This winter has been trying for even the most hardy New Englanders.  We have kept our heat intentionally low at 63 so a combination of warming comfort foods and lots sweaters are a must.  This weather makes me want to stay indoors and cook from my freezer and pantry.  Rummaging through the cupboards I found a bag of black beans, a 10 oz. round steak in the freezer and an odd assortment of vegetables in the fridge.  Bill and I love Southwestern and Mexican flavors so I decided to try a black bean chili.  You can use a can of black beans (I would recommend the cumin and chili flavor) or you can start from scratch as I did.

For the Beans:

I decided to cook the whole bag and reserve some for a black bean soup later in the week.  I usually rinse the beans, put them in a large sauce pan with water to cover, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, one large carrot, one celery stick, one half of an onion quartered and for these recipes 1 teaspoon of cumin and one jalapeno pepper sliced in 4 pieces with the seeds.  Simmer the beans for approximately 1 1/2 hours until they are tender.  You will need to add hot water periodically if the beans peak through the liquid.

Black Bean and Corn Chili

1 12 oz round steak, cubed, and tossed with 1 T flour and salt and pepper

1/2 onion diced
1 red pepper, large dice
1 small carrot, diced
1 small stalk of celery diced (I used the leaves too)
1 jalapeno pepper, small dice
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I like the Amare brand because you squeeze what you want out and put the tube back in the refrigerator).
1 cup diced tomatoes with juice
2 cups of beef stock or broth

Spice Mix:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon chili caribe (only if you have it - it is a light flavored chili)
1 bay leaf
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon minced garlic

To finish you will need:

2 cups cooked black beans
1 cup of fresh or frozen corn kernels


1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
Fresh lime juice wedges to squeeze over the top
1 fresh chopped tomato
Tortilla chips
Monterrey Jack Cheese (shredded)
Optional Pepitas

In a dutch oven type pan start by browning the beef cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Once browned remove the beef to a bowl and deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of beef stock.  Scrape the juicy bits from the pan as the stock boils and when most of it is clear pour the stock over the reserved beef.

Add 2 teaspoons additional olive oil to the pan.  Over medium heat saute the onions until limp then add carrots, celery, and peppers.  Cook for about 5 minutes then add the tomato paste, spices and garlic.  Stir and cook until the spices are fragrant.  Then add the beef and stock back into the pan.  Add the diced tomatoes and the additional 1 1/2 cups beef stock.  Bring chili to simmer.  Reduce heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes.

Check meat to see if it is tender.  If so add the corn and beans.  Allow to simmer for a few minutes for the flavors to meld.  Top with a few tortilla chips, cheese, cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gazpacho - Chill Out on a Warm Summer Day

Gazpacho is one of my summertime favorites.  The crisp, cool and slightly spicy flavors of a good bowl of gazpacho cannot be beat on a hot summer day.  This  gazpacho has a tomato base and a lot of summer vegetables.  There are no set rules so if you are missing an ingredient or two don't worry - all gazpachos taste different.  My husband often makes a savory watermelon or peach gazpacho at work that incorporates some of vegetables below but with different spices.

Gazpacho comes from the southern part of Andalusia in Spain.  Purists favor mashing ingredients in a mortar and pestle and the recipes from Spain typically contain stale bread, wine vinegar and olive oil.  The olive oil will add mouth feel to the soup allowing the flavors to linger in your mouth for a little longer.   The base for the soup I make is V-8 juice.  I like a combination of some smooth texture and some with the vegetables in tact.  Once I add the additional minced and cubed vegetables I divide the soup and blend half of the mixture to incorporate the vegetables.  You can substitute vegetable stock but may need some additional tomato added to the soup.  Make sure you leave plenty of time to chill your soup - this will also allow the foam created by blended to settle - giving the soup a more appealing texture.  I like to garnish my with either some of the fresh cubed vegetables found in the soup or for a special occasion a couple of jumbo chilled cooked shrimp.  Enjoy!


Pulse Blend:

2 - 3 Tomatoes, washed and quartered
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce OR balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon basil or 2 Tablespoons fresh basil
1 teaspoon oregano or 2 Tablespoons fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme or 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups V-8 Juice

In a separate bowl combine:

1 small onion, diced
1 cucumber, peeled seeded and cubed (about 1/4" cubes)
1 green pepper, diced
*1 poblano pepper (roasted, peeled, seeded and diced)
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced (a hand chopper works beautifully for this)
1 small zucchini, diced
For a spicier version you can add a few drops of tabasco - I prefer to add a fresh jalapeño  pepper seeded and diced very finely.

*I roast my poblanos directly on my gas stove top burner but you can also use the broiler in the oven.  Set the flame to med-low and place the washed and dried pepper directly over the flame.  Turn the pepper frequently to char the outside skin.  Immediately after charring remove the pepper to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow the pepper to cool for several minutes while you prepare the other vegetables.  Once the pepper is cool slide the charred skin off the flesh and discard (you can use a little running water but be careful not to wash away too much of the flavor!).  Slice open the pepper, remove the seeds and dice.

Divide the chopped vegetables in half and put one half in the blended tomato mixture.  Pulse until desired consistency.  If the soup still looks to chunky you can remove some of the soup to the blender and pulse again.   Fold in the remaining ingredients and add a tablespoon of olive oil.   Chill thoroughly before serving.

Some of my favorite garnishes depending on what I have on hand:

Fresh cilantro
Cubed cucumber
Thinly sliced sweet mini-peppers
Toasted tortilla strips
Chilled Cooked Jumbo Shrimp

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Maple Walnut Sticky Buns

It's that time of year; warm days and cold nights in March mean the sap is running in the Sugar Maple Trees that dot our forests and streets in New Hampshire and surrounding states.  I grew up on a small farm in rural New Hampshire that produced as much as 350 gallons of this golden elixir.  I always become nostalgic during sugar season.  My dad and godfather ran a large operation mostly using child labor (us) and Yankee ingenuity.  We had a sugar house in the back yard behind the barn (no large animals after the cow fell in the well - another story) and many evenings in March were spent out in that steamy warm building.  My dad loves the first draw of syrup - the fancy grade with the lightest flavor and color.  This syrup is best on pancakes, waffles or drizzled over ice-cream.  If you are cooking with syrup you will want to find a dark, flavorful syrup or Grade B.  We keep a quart of both in the fridge. 

This recipe is based on one given to me by my dad.  He is one of the best bakers I know and an inspiration to all those around him - he loves sharing the bounty of his talents with others.  The dough is sweet and tender and the maple sticky caramel is delicious with the walnuts and golden raisins.

Makes approximately 20 buns
For the dough, combine and scald:

1 ½ cups milk
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon sea salt

Set aside to cool (approximately 20 minutes until the liquid is between 95 and 105 degrees F)
Pour cooled liquid into the bowl of a standing mixer.

With mixer running on lowest setting add:

1 teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs
1 ¾ teaspoons yeast (this is slightly less than one package)

Gradually add (see next paragraph):

 6 cups of King Arthur All Purpose Flour

Use the  paddle attachment for the first 4 cups and when smoot switch to the dough hook.  Then gradually add the remaining 2 cups until dough starts climbing the hook and is stiff enough to handle.  If the dough seems too sticky you may need to add up to an additional ½ cup of flour.

Knead the dough approximately 2 – 3 minutes.  Remove the dough hook from the dough cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm area (75 to 80 degrees is ideal) until dough is double in size.  This will take approximately 1 ½ hours.
While the dough is rising make the caramel liquid as follows:
2/3 cup butter

Whisk into the butter and set aside:
¾ cup pure maple syrup – Grade B is preferable as it has more flavor
1/4 cup brown sugar

Have ready:
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 cup walnuts – halved or chopped in large pieces

Prepare two 8” oven proof skillets.  Spray with non-stick spray and put ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons of the maple syrup butter mixture in the bottom of each skillet.  Spread ½ cup of the walnuts onto the bottom of each pan and set aside.

Finish the dough:

Place the dough on a large floured surface.  Knead for a minute or so and form into an oblong roll.  Allow the dough to rest for about five minutes.  Roll the dough out into a long rectangle.  This will be approximately 12” X 30” and a generous ¼” thick.

Brush a generous amount of the remaining butter/maple syrup mixture over the entire surface of the rolled out dough.  Sprinkle the golden raisins evenly over the dough.  If you decide to add cinnamon sprinkle lightly on the dough (you can cut it with a tablespoon of sugar to make it easier to sprinkle onto the dough).  Roll the dough up lengthwise to make a long – (approximately 30” long) log.  Cut the rolls into generous 1 inch slices and arrange onto the prepared skillets.  Depending on the size of your roll you will have approximately 10 rolls per skillet.

Cover the skillets with a clean towel and set in a warm place to rise until the rolls approximately double in size.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake in preheated oven for approximately 30 – 40 minutes until dark golden brown.  Turn upside down on a plate to serve.  You can also add a quick maple glaze by combining:

2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 - 3/4 cup confectionery sugar

Drizzle glaze over the top of the sticky buns.  Serve warm.