Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TWD ~ Baking Chez Moi Mango Panna Cotta

TWD ~ BCM Mango Panna Cotta

It’s time for Tuesdays with Dorie, Baking Chez Moi. I was so excited with this weeks pick! I adore Panna Cotta! I’ve made it several times in the past although, it’s been awhile!

Last summer, while visiting Italy, I succumbed to the creamy, luscious texture of Panna Cotta much more than I should have. While my grandkids were eating their fill of Gelato, I was enjoying this magnificent, vanilla flavored, velvety dessert. I am a pudding kind of girl anyway. Rice pudding, custard pudding, chocolate pudding, Creme Brulee, tapioca or Pots de Creme. You name it, I love it! I think you get the picture! 

Dories Panna Cotta was absolutely luscious…I loved the contrast of flavors between the vanilla cream and mango

While in the picturesque Tuscan countryside, we visited a family owned and operated farm called, Fattoria Poggio Alloro. We made pasta, we toured the winery, and we sat on a patio, covered with beautiful floral vines to eat lunch. The patio had the most spectacular views of San Gimignano. We were served a magnificent lunch, including fresh tomato bruschetta, and our choice of several pasta entrees.  Our table had several bottles of family made white and red wines. I remember the food being amazing. What stands out in my mind most, besides the beautiful country side views, was the dessert! I was served an incredibly smooth, light and silky Panna Cotta, covered with berry compote. Panna Cottas can be flavored with a variety of different ingredients; the richness comes from the cream that makes up the base for this dessert. 

The view with San Gimignano in the distance
Our table with the stunning view
My Panna Cotta from Fattoria Poggio Alloro

Dorie’s recipe was quick and easy. First taking a sliced up mango, placing it into a blender and blending till smooth. I added a touch of honey, and a bit of limejuice.  Spoon this mixture into the glasses you will be using to serve your dessert, then place into the freezer for approximately 20 minutes.  While you wait, it’s time to make the Panna Cotta. Heat the cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla bean to a boil, let the flavors meld for about 20 minutes. Once it's rested, add water to the gelatin, and let bloom.  Microwave the gelatin mixture for 20 seconds to liquefy. Bring the cream mixture back to a boil, add to the gelatin, stir and let cool. Now top the mango filled glasses with the cream. Refrigerate at least two hours until chilled before serving.

 So good and yet so easy

Rich and succulent….A perfect summer time dessert!  Happy Tuesday everyone!
This recipe can be found in Dorie’s new cookbook Baking Chez Moi. We don’t share the recipes  unless they have been previously published. If you would like to see what the other bakers thought of this one, check it out here. There are many Panna Cotta recipes on-line, this one at the The Splendid Table is pretty similar. 

CCC ~ Marinated Cucumbers, Couscous Salad with Herbs & Walnuts, and New Potato, Green Beans & Olive Salad

New Potato, Green Bean and Olive Salad...

Welcome to another month of fun and adventures in the kitchen! July is here, and that means it’s time for this months edition of the Cottage Cooking Club. This group, led by Andrea of the wonderful Kitchen Lioness blog, is cooking through River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. The book is divided into seasonal sections, and Andrea provides a list of recipes from each section of the book. Then we, the members, get to decide which of these recipes we’d like to prepare. And if you’re especially energetic, you might choose all of them. For me it’s usually two or three! 

What I love best, about picking recipes from this book, is that they are considerably healthy, easy, and fit into my everyday busy lifestyle. This month I chose Couscous Salad with Herbs and Walnuts, New Potato, Green Beans and Olive Salad.  Also, because my cucumbers are growing faster then I can keep up with...The Marinated Cucumber with Mint. 
I really enjoyed all three of these dishes but, my favorite was the New Potato, Green Beans and Olive salad! It was a winner all around and, my hubby loved it! What’s not to love? The olives add a nice touch of flavor.  

My favorite of the month….this was a great side dish…full of flavor, and scrumptious! 
The Marinated Cucumbers with Mint was the easiest to prepare, and extremely fresh tasting…I will be making both of these all summer long. 

Marinated Cucumbers with Mint
This was a delightfully fresh salad…with cucumbers just picked from my garden
The Couscous Salad was my least favorite. It just didn’t seem to have as much flavor as I would have liked. That was my fault for not adding all the spices. Bill didn’t enjoy this one at all! My plan is to give it one more try, adjusting the spices and ingredients more to our liking.  

Couscous Salad with Herbs and Walnuts

Not my favorite…I played with the spices without trying it the way it was written…so “my bad”. I will make this again, being more true to the recipe. Loved the addition of the toasted walnuts.

Marinated Cucumbers with Mint 
This is really a non-recipe. It was quite refreshing made with just-picked cucumbers from my garden. The cucumbers are young and not waxed, so I didn’t peel them. I halved them lengthwise, scooped out the seeds, and then sliced them kind of thin into half moons. They then get tossed with cider vinegar, olive oil, and a small handful of finely chopped mint. Add a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper and let them rest for 30 minutes. I couldn’t wait the 30 minutes…I ate mine after 10 minutes and they were delicious! 

Couscous Salad with Herbs and Walnuts
Recipe from River Cottage Veg by the author Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Serves 4

2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 to 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
7 oz whole-wheat Israeli couscous
A bunch of flat-leaf parsley
A handful of chives, chopped (optional)
A handful of tarragon, chopped (optional)
3/4 cup of walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Put the cumin and fennel seeds in a dry frying pan and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan often, for a few minutes until fragrant. Tip into a mortar and, when cool, grind with the pestle to a powder. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in the frying pan and saute the onion, celery, fennel, and garlic over medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until softened but still with a bit of bite. Remove from the heat and add the ground spices and lemon zest.

Cook the couscous in salted water following the package instructions. Drain well and mix with the onion and spice mixture. Allow to cool.

Stir in the lemon juice, herbs, walnuts, and plenty of salt and pepper. Before serving, add more oil to lubricate the couscous to your taste – you might want a little more lemon juice, too.

New Potato, Green Beans and Olive Salad
Recipe from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall 

1 pound/ 500g small new potatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 ounces/ 200g green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch / 4cm lengths
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly slivered
2 ounces/ 60g pitted black olives, very coarsely chopped
A good handful of basil, shredded
A generous squeeze of 
lemon juice

Cut the potatoes into 2 or 3 pieces each. Put them in a saucepan, 
cover with water, add salt, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer for about 8 minutes, until tender, adding the beans for the 
last 2 or 3 minutes. Drain well and return to the hot pan.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small frying pan over low heat. Add the garlic and cook very gently for a couple of minutes, without letting it color. Add the chopped olives and cook for a minute more. Remove from the heat.

Tip the oil, garlic, and olives into the pan with the potatoes and beans. Add the basil, a generous squeeze or two of lemon juice, and some salt and pepper. Toss together and serve warm.

Potatoes and "deconstructed pesto"
Omit the beans. Heat the garlic in the oil, as above, then toss with the drained potatoes and loads of shredded basil (a good bunch), some lemon juice, and plenty of slivered or finely grated Parmesan, hard goat cheese, or other well-flavored hard cheese.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Elderflower, Vanilla, and Lemon Syrup ~ and The Hugo Cocktail

Elderflower, Vanilla, and Lemon Syrup
Many years ago, as we cleared the property to build our house, I walked through our three acres, trying to identify plants that I wanted to save. Plants that I knew would bring a bounty of enjoyment for years to come. The property was scattered with several species of wild berries including blackberries, blueberries, black raspberries, and concord grapes. During my walk, I spied a little bush in one corner of the property, filled with sprays of lovely white flowers. I tagged it so it wouldn’t be destroyed, and then quite honestly forgot about it until a few years later. I thought it might be Elderberry, but wasn’t quite sure. That was, until I went to lunch with several girlfriends. One of my friends was quite knowledgeable about foraging, so I asked her about the Elderberry bush. She confirmed, what I had thought. Lucky me, I had an Elderberry Bush in my yard. Since then, I have been keeping it from being overgrown by wild grape vines, that seem to creep onto everything, trimming it back, and fertilizing it. 

Elderflower Syrup with sparkling water and raspberries 

Last year, after seeing the Internet inundated with recipes using these lovely blossoms, I decided to make a batch of syrup for myself. My bush was full of beautiful sprays of flowers, growing in compact bunches. The umbels are delicate and have a light creamy-pale yellow color. I picked about forty, and left some for the birds to enjoy. The fragrance is highly aromatic with a lemony-honey scent.
This syrup was such a hit with friends and family, I ventured out again this year to make another batch! I love this stuff! It’s great mixed with sparkling water, or poured over strawberries. It’s also lovely sprinkled over pound cake! And it was marvelous mixed with sparkling wine, a perfect summer-time drink! So, as long as my Elderflower bush is producing flowers…I see a lot of syrup in my future! 

Oh, one last thing, give the Hugo Cocktail a try…I’ll just say you’re welcome now!! Enjoy everyone! 

If you don’t have a bush, you could buy a bottle of St. Germains, or next spring go foraging!

Beautiful bush, with a highly aromatic lemony-honey scent 
Shake off any little bugs, and lightly wash the flowers
The syrup….
Mix the blossoms with the syrup…let rest, then bottle it
This drink is light, lovely and refreshing…enjoy!
Sit back, relax and enjoy a lovely glass of summer! 

You can read more about the Elderflower syrup here at About.com. Here is the recipe I used.

Elderflower, Vanilla, and Lemon Syrup

1kg/ 4½ cups granulated sugar
2 organic lemons, halved, plus a strip of peel
1 vanilla pod, seeds reserved
1 tbsp citric acid powder
about 40 fresh elderflowers, shaken free of bugs, lightly rinsed

1. Rinse the elderflowers under cold water to remove any dirt or small bugs. Be gentle.
2.  Fill a large pan with 2 litres/ 2.1 quarts water. Add the sugar, lemons, vanilla pod and citric acid powder, and bring slowly to the boil. Boil rapidly until the mixture has reduced by half, then remove from the heat.
3. Add the elderflowers to the pan and stir gently. Leave to cool completely, then pass through a sieve lined with muslin into another clean pan. Whisk in the vanilla seeds and store the cordial in sterilized bottles with a strip of peel and the vanilla pod added. To make a refreshing drink, use 1 part syrup to 5 parts iced water.

As I searched for recipes on-line, I came across this lovely sounding cocktail…YUM!

The Hugo Cocktail  
Fill a wine glass with sparkling wine or dry white wine. Pour in a dash of the elderflower syrup (to taste), add 1-2 ice cubes, stir and garnish with 2-3 strips of lemon peel and 3 mint leaves. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

TWD ~BCM Apricot-Raspberry Tart

TWD ~ BCM Apricot-Raspberry Tart

This week the Tuesdays with Dorie ~ Baking Chez Moi bakers tackled an amazing Apricot-Raspberry Tart.  Lucky me…the stars aligned! The raspberries in my garden have been ripening all week, I was even able to pick about a cup…more than what I needed for this tart. And when I got to the grocery store, they were stocking some beautiful, fresh apricots. 

Lovely apricots and freshly picked raspberries from my garden

The tart starts off with Dories’ sweet tart pastry; it gets partially baked, before it’s filled. I really love this type of dough, also called pâte sablée. It's really simple to make in your food processor, and always comes out perfect.

Ready for the oven

After the crust is baked and cooled, it is filled with ladyfingers, stale cake or Brioche crumbs. I happened to have a handful of ladyfingers in my freezer, left over from our Strawberry Shortcake. 
I decided to “minify" this recipe since there would only be two of us eating it. I used two mini tart pans, placing a ladyfinger disk in each, and proceeded layering the apricots. As you can see, I sliced the apricots to make sure they fit into the mini pans. Then I sprinkled a teaspoon of sugar over each tart and baked at 350 for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with an additional 2 teaspoons of sugar, distribute the raspberries over the apricots, dot with slivers of cold butter, and place back into the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and scatter with chopped pistachios, continue baking for another 10 minutes. I adjusted the times to accommodate my mini tarts. 

Once your dough is made and baked, these tarts are pretty straightforward.  Definitely company worthy! My hubby and I enjoyed them on our back deck, with a cup of coffee, as an afternoon treat! Magnifique!  Happy Tuesday everyone!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s new cookbook, “Baking Chez Moi”. Although I consider this tart a pretty much non-recipe…it can be found here at google books.

Coffee on the deck with this lovely Apricot Raspberry Tart
This is one tart I will make again, and again…
Totally divine! 
Take a peek at the ladyfinger under the apricots…yum!
Raspberries ripening in my garden

Monday, July 13, 2015

Blueberries ’N’ Cream Cheesecake

Blueberries ’n’ Cream Cheesecake
Did you know that there’s a day dedicated to honor Blueberry Cheesecake? It occurs sometime in May, and I missed it! However, I do have an amazing creamy Blueberry Cheesecake to share with you today. I flagged this recipe months ago…waiting for local New Jersey blueberries to be in season.   
I adore cheesecake! Definitely one of my favorite desserts! Velvety, rich, and delectable! I bake one for just about every holiday, or special occasion. Check out this Amaretto Cheesecake, and read how to fix a crack if it occurs, or maybe bake up this Ricotta Cheesecake.  A friend, who had entered it into the Abraham & Straus cheesecake contest, gave the recipe to me, years ago.  

This was a winner of a cheesecake….incredibly luscious!
Did you know that cheesecakes date back to Ancient Greece? When they started out, they were a far cry from the sweet flavored confections we know and love today. So although many people assume cheesecakes got their origin in New York, they actually date back over 4,000 years. Anthropologists have excavated cheese molds that have been dated circa 2000 BC. I’m impressed!!  
Most of the flavor and texture of a cheesecake is dependent on the type of cheese used to make it. American cheesecakes are almost exclusively made with cream cheese. Some have sour cream, and/or heavy cream added, creating a creamy, dense texture. Italian cheesecakes are most often made with ricotta, and in Eastern Europe cheesecakes are made with quark, a type of curd cheese.

A perfect ending to a wonderful Fourth of July barbecue…along with some fireworks!

This wonderful Blueberries ’n’ Cream Cheesecake comes from a 1986 Southern Living Annual cookbook. I’ve made it twice in the last few weeks.  The first time I followed the directions as written, and felt it came out a bit too soft in the center, but delicious! So, for my Fourth of July barbecue I made another one…the result was pure perfection. One of my friends even went so far to say; she thought it was the best cheesecake I’ve made! Insert smiley face here! 
I baked my cake about 10 to15 minutes longer than suggested. It was creamy and luscious, a winner for sure, and it takes advantage of all those plumb, juicy blueberries that are quite prolific now in NJ. A perfect dessert to showcase them! 

A perfect summer cheesecake
Notice the blueberries swirled throughout the cake…so good!
Go ahead and bake it….you know you want to!

Blueberries ’n’ Cream Cheesecake
from Southern Living Annual ‘87  Yield: 10 Servings

2 1/2cFresh blueberries
38-ounce packages cream cheese; softened
1 1/2cSour cream
1/2tsVanilla extract
11/2 cFresh blueberries
Combine 2-1/2 cups blueberries and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in container of an electric blender; blend unti smooth. Cook puree in saucepan over medium-high heat about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly. Set mixture aside to cool. Reserve 1/2 cup puree for glaze.
Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add 1 cup sugar, mixing well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in 2 tablespoons cornstarch and salt. Pour batter into a greased 9-inch springform pan. Pour puree over cheesecake batter; gently swirl with a knife. Bake at 325 F degrees for 45 minutes or until set. (I baked mine for an hour) Remove from oven; cool on wire rack 20 minutes.
Combine sour cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and vanilla in a small bowl; mix well. Spread sour cream mixture over cheesecake. Bake at 325 F degrees an additional 10 minutes. Cool cheesecake on wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours.
Combine reserved 1/2 cup puree, 1/4 cup sugar, and water in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Gently fold in 11/2 cups blueberries; let cool.
Remove sides of springform pan. Spoon blueberry glaze on cheesecake. Yield: 10 to 12 servings. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Blogger Clue July ~ Arugula Salad with Figs, Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Parmesan

Arugula Salad with Figs, Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Parmesan
It’s Blogger C.L.U.E. time again! For the month of July, our “clue” or theme is Summer Barbecues. The best part about Blogger C.L.U.E. is getting to meet my fellow food bloggers, by snooping around their blog, reading some of their posts, and finding some yummy recipes to make. This month, I spent time getting to know Kate of Kate’s Kitchen. Not only does she have a lovely blog, with delicious recipes, but if she were my neighbor, I would love sharing a glass of iced tea with her on my deck. She is definitely a kindred spirit. Recently Kate moved into a new house. I loved reading about her adventures in moving. For some time now, we have been contemplating a move. I shudder with fear, at the daunting task of packing up all the “stuff” I have collected through the years.

The sweet-salty taste of this salad was marvelous…I added some tomatoes to mine

Kate lives in Indianapolis, Indiana. She works as a Financial Planner, but her passion is cooking. Kate, your passion shines through, with all those sensational recipes you've shared on your blog. She also shares my love of gardening. For me, it’s all about the peaceful feeling I get while working in the soil, and the satisfaction from seeing something grow and flourish! My garden is a place of solace. And the rewards are wonderfully fresh veggies, and berries all summer long! 

Perfect as a dinner salad, I served mine with grilled steak, or in a big bowl at your barbecue

Perusing Kate’s blog, I found several recipes I would love to make, and serve to my family.  Many, perfect for a Barbecue, like her Blueberry Watermelon Salad with mint and lemon. Sounds incredible, doesn’t it? It was tough picking just one recipe for this post, but I had to do it…so I chose Kate's Arugula Salad with Figs, Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Parmesan. This one grabbed my attention immediately. Arugula is one of my favorite greens; I love the peppery bite it has. And figs, I adore figs. This recipe uses dried figs, which I always have on hand…it’s a Mediterranean thing! Prosciutto, walnuts and Parmesan round it out…giving this salad an incredible sweet-salty structure that was simply mouthwatering! Even my picky eater loved it…he said, and I quote, “This is one of the best salads you’ve ever made”! Wow! Thanks Kate, it’s not too often that happens!

Simply mouthwatering

Cooks Illustrated

Although frying the prosciutto adds crisp texture to the salad, if you prefer, you can simply cut it into ribbons and use it as a garnish. Honey can be substituted for the jam. 


4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into ¼-inch-wide ribbons
1 tablespoon raspberry jam
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup dried figs, stems removed, fruit chopped into ¼-inch pieces 
1 small shallot, very finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  salt and ground black pepper
5 ounces lightly packed stemmed arugula (about 8 cups)
½ cup toasted, chopped walnuts
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved into thin strips with vegetable peeler

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat; add prosciutto and fry until crisp, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer to paper-towel-lined plate and set aside to cool.

2. Whisk jam and vinegar in medium microwave-safe bowl; stir in figs. Cover with plastic wrap, cut several steam vents in plastic, and microwave on high until figs are plump, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; toss to combine. Let cool to room temperature.
3. Toss arugula and vinaigrette in large bowl; adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Divide salad among individual plates; top each with portion of prosciutto, walnuts, and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Check out what the other Blogger Clue members came up with for this months theme…Barbecues!