Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Candies

I made holiday caramel and toffee candies inspired by Food and Wine Magazine over the holiday. It was a fun adventure, as I never made candy before. I wrapped them up and will be giving them out as gifts to help people get through holiday withdrawal over the next week.

Chocolate-Almond Toffee (from Food and Wine)
What You Need:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 cup salted roasted almonds—3/4 cup coarsely chopped, 1/4 cup finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, crumbled
- 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

What You Do:
1. Line an 8-by-11-inch baking pan with foil.
2. Spray the foil with vegetable oil.
3. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter.
4. Stir in the sugar and water and bring to a boil.
5. Cook over moderate heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until a deeply golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 300° on a candy thermometer, 15 minutes. Note: if the sugar and butter separate, stir vigorously to blend (this happened to me, pretty scary and not sure the toffee truly recovered!).
6. Remove from the heat and add the coarsely chopped almonds, vanilla and salt.
7. Scrape the toffee into the prepared pan; let cool for 10 minutes.
8. Sprinkle half of the chocolate over the toffee and let stand until melted.
9. Spread the chocolate over the toffee and sprinkle with half of the finely chopped almonds.
10. Freeze the toffee for 10 minutes.
11. Invert the toffee onto a foil-lined baking sheet and peel off the foil backing.
12. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the remaining chocolate.
13. Spread the melted chocolate over the top of the toffee and sprinkle with the remaining finely chopped almonds.
14. Let the toffee cool, then break into shards.

Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels (from Food and Wine)
What You Need:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- Coarse sea salt, crumbled
- 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted (optional)

What You Do:
1. Line a 9-by-13-inch pan with foil; spray it with vegetable oil.
2. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter.
3. Add the sugar, corn syrup and cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
4. Add the vanilla seeds. (They smell so good!)
5. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 245° on a candy thermometer, 1 hour.
6. Stir in 1 tablespoon of salt and scrape the caramel into the prepared pan.
7. Let cool and set completely overnight.
8. Lightly oil a sheet of parchment paper and line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.
9. Invert the caramel onto the parchment and peel off the foil. (This is the easy part)
10. Using a sharp knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch-wide strips and then into 1-inch squares. (This is the hard part! It took me awhile to get these cut up!)
11. Dip the squares into the chocolate, tap off the excess and transfer to the wax paper on the baking sheets.
12. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
11. Alternatively, wrap the plain caramel squares in wax paper and tie with thread.

Christmas Dinner!

It has been a long time since I've been able to get organized to write a post. I have a backlog of recipes that I want to share. But, instead of going back in time... I'll write up some recipes I used for our Christmas dinner celebration. It was a wonderful feast with good friends, friendly pups, and lots and lots of fabulous food. On the menu was turkey, gravy, stuffing, green beans, risotto with scallops, stuffed onions, stuffed peppers, butternut squash soup, and butternut squash salad (if you can believe it, I think I may be missing menu items!). I brought over cauliflower gratin and veggie lasagna. Both turned out wonderfully! The lasagna is very time consuming, but work every minute!

Cauliflower and Goat Cheese Gratin (from Food Network)
What You Need:
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese , coarsely grated
- 2 cups grated Parmesan
- 6 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
- Salt and freshly ground pepper

What You Do:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Layer the cauliflower, heavy cream, and the 3 cheeses in a medium casserole dish.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and the sauce has thickened slightly. 5. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Veggie Lasagna (from Gourmet Today Cookbook! Go out and buy it! I love this book)
Note: This is a complicated recipe. I made the ricotta a day in advance and then worked through the recipe. I organized it by each of its components.

What You Need (Sauce):
- 3 tbl olive oil
- 1 med onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tbl tomato paste
- 2 (28 ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice, Italian, drained, juice reserved, and finely chopped
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3 tbl chopped basil

What You Do (Sauce):
1. Heat oil in heavy pot over moderate heat and add onion, cooking for 6 minutes.
2. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
3. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, juice, sugar, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil.
4. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 45 minutes.
5. Stir in basil and remove from heat.

What You Need (Ricotta Cheese):
- 3 cups whole milk ricotta (see my post for how to make homemade ricotta)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley (flat leaf)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Pinch nutmeg

What You Do (Ricotta):
1. Stir together in bowl until combined and refrigerate.

What You Need (Roasted Veggies):
- 1 pound eggplant cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch think slices
- 1 pound zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch think slices
- 3 tbl olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper

What You Do (Roasted Veggies):
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Oil two large baking sheets.
3. Arrange eggplant slices on one and zucchini slices on the other.
4. Brush veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Bake, turning once, 20 minutes.

What You Need (Creamed Spinach):
- 1 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 tbl olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 3 tbl flour
- 3 tbl parmigiano-reggiano
- 2 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach thawed and squeezed dry
- Salt and pepper to taste

What You Do (Creamed Spinach):
1. Heat milk in a small saucepan until warm.
2. Heat oil in heavy saucepan over moderate low heat until hot.
3. Add garlic an cook, 4 minutes (or less).
4. Add flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes, to make roux.
5. Add warm milk in a steady stream whisking constantly.
6. Simmer sauce until thick 3-4 minutes.
7. Stir in cheese, spinach, salt and pepper.
8. Cook until heated.

What You Need (Lasagna Assembly):
- 1 pound fresh lasagna noodles (Vace is a great source in Cleveland Park, Washington DC)
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese (fresh, from Vace or check out my post on mozzarella), grated

What You Do (Lasagna Assembly):
1. Oil a 13-9 inch glass baking dish.
2. Spread 2 cups tomato sauce into dish.
3. Cover with lasagna noodle(s).
4. Spread ricotta, then cover with eggplant (overlapping to fit).
5. Top with more lasagna noodle(s).
6. Spread 1 1/2 cup sauce and top with spinach mixture.
7. Top with more lasagna noodle(s).
8. Top with zucchini (overlapping to fit).
9. Top with last of lasagna noodles.
10. Spread remaining sauce and sprinkle top with mozzarella.
11. Cover with well buttered foil and bake for 45 minutes at 375.
12. Remove foil and bake additional 10-15 minutes until lightly browned.

Let rest and enjoy!

Wish I was a food photographer to get some good shots of the meal. But here are samples of our colorful and full plates:

Holiday Wishes

Friday, December 4, 2009

Eggplant Salad

Here is a recipe from Thanksgiving for an eggplant salad/spread. It is delicious and was prepared by a family friend. One of my mother's friends got the recipe and wrote it down. I'm hoping to see if it turns out as well when I prepare it:

Eggplant Salad

What You Need:
- l large or 2 medium eggplants
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 Tbs Vinegar
- 1 - 2 Tbs olive oil
- Sea salt

What You Do:
1. Fork your eggplants in a couple of places to put some holes in them.
2. Wrap the eggplant(s) in tin foil.
2. Cook eggplants in oven for about one hour. (Anthony says "Cook for one hour on a low flame directly on the "burner" and keep turning to avoid burning-- but I think this can be done in the oven)
3. When it is done (soft) rinse in cold water and scoop out the insides and mix by hand or in a blender and set aside.
4. Take the onion, the cloves of garlic, the vinegar and the olive oil and put in a blender.
5. Blend till smooth.
6. Add the eggplant and salt to taste.

Best served next day.

Still to come... turkey, stuffing, and dessert! Just waiting on some details from my mom!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving Part Two: Sides

For the Thanksgiving sides we served brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole, cooked carrots, and cranberry sauce. The cranberry sauce was the best surprise of the meal, since it was my first time making homemade sauce. We usually use the Ocean Spray canned jelly. I was determined to find a sauce that would convert many of my friends and family to a homemade variety. And, it was a success!

Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Hazelnut Butter (from The Bitten Word)
What You Need (I doubled the recipe):
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts (about 1 oz.)
- 2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1-1/2 tsp. lightly chopped fresh thyme
- 1/2 tsp. honey
- Kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1-3/4 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered or cut into 6 wedges if very large (about 6 cups)
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup lower-salt chicken broth

What You Do:
1. Heat the oven to 400°F.
2. Put the hazelnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet.
3. Roast in the oven until they are a deep golden-brown (the skins will be visibly splitting), 5 to 6 minutes.
4. Wrap the nuts in a clean kitchen towel, cool for a couple of minutes, and then take the skins off by rubbing the nuts together in the kitchen towel while still warm. (Don’t worry about getting all of the skins off.)
5. Let the nuts cool for about 10 minutes.
6. Finely chop 1/4 cup of the nuts in a small food processor. The nuts should be very finely ground, but not so much that they turn into nut butter.
7. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts and set aside for a garnish.
8. Put the finely chopped nuts, butter, lemon zest, thyme, honey, and 1/4 tsp. salt in a small bowl and mix with a spatula until well combined.
9. Set aside or refrigerate if not using right away.
10. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat.
11. Add the Brussels sprouts and 1-1/2 tsp. salt and stir well.
12. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally and then more frequently as the sprouts begin to brown, until all of the sprouts are golden-brown on most sides and have lost their raw color (they will still feel firm), 15 to 18 minutes.
13. Add the broth and immediately cover the pan.
14. Cook until the broth has reduced to a few tablespoons, about 2 minutes.
15. Uncover, raise the heat to high, and boil off most of the remaining liquid, 1 to 2 minutes.
16. Take the pan off the heat and add the hazelnut butter in spoonfuls; toss well. Season to taste with salt.
17. Transfer the sprouts to a warm serving dish and garnish with the reserved hazelnuts.

Sweet Potato Casserole (from Southern Food)

What You Need (I triple the recipe and make one batch without the nut topping):
- 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup melted butter
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- Marshmallows

What You Do:
1. Combine first 6 ingredients.

2. Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish.

3. Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over top.

4. Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned.

Here is a look at the carrots while they are cooking. I'll have to get the recipe from my mom to post.Most important of the sides (although they were all delicious), was the cranberry sauce. A happy new addition to our Thanksgiving dinner.

Honey-and-Spice Cranberry Sauce (from Epicurious)

What You Need:
- 1 12-ounce bag cranberries
- 1 3/4 cups apple cider or juice
- 3/4 cup honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
- 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
- 6 whole cloves (for next year, I'm going to use less cloves for a more mild flavor)
- 1 bay leaf
- Pinch of salt What You Do:

1. Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan.

2. Bring to boil over medium heat.

3. Simmer until berries burst and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. I ended up simmering for a bit longer than this to get the right thickness, maybe 20-30 minutes.

4. Remove cinnamon sticks, cloves and bay leaf.

5. Refrigerate sauce until cold. (Note: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

Stay tuned for the most important part of the meal, stuffing, turkey, and desserts!