Tag Archives: festive

Outdoor Dining: Campari Cocktail

29 May

Campari Cocktail

When I was ten, my mom and I took a mother-daughter trip to Switzerland.  We each had one carry-on suitcase for a ten day trip.  This meant we pretty much wore the same thing every day (minus clean underwear and socks) and I still have nightmares about our matching neon windbreaker jogging suits.  Weren’t the 90s a riot?  Clothing choices aside, it was an amazing trip where we visited some of the prettiest cities in Europe – Lugano, Lucerne, Grindelwald, and Zermatt, to name a few. We also ate a TON of cheese, nutella and muesli.  On this trip I was also introduced to Campari.  At dinner some nights, my mom would have a Campari on the rocks with a twist at the start of dinner.  One meal, she let me try a sip, which upon tasting, I promptly spit it out all over our table.  For being such a bright red drink, I was expecting a taste akin to Kool-Aid.  I was wrong.  Campari (read about it here or here) is VERY bitter.  My mom called the drink an “acquired taste” and I was content sticking with milk and Perrier for the rest of the trip.  Now, almost two decades after my first experience with Campari, I have “acquired” a taste for it and it’s actually one of my favorite summer drinks.  For a more potent pre-dinner apertif, I recommend drinking it exactly as my mom did on our trip – on the rocks in a lowball glass with a twist of lemon or orange.  For a more cocktail-type drink, check out the drink I’ve created below.  It’s very simple and goes great with appetizers or a meal like this one.  Drink outside for maximum refreshment!

Campari Cocktail
Serves 1

Ingredients
2 oz. Campari
1 Can of Club Soda
Splash Fresh Lemon Juice
Lemon Peel, for garnish
Ice

Directions
1. Put ice cubes in a highball glass.  (Note: In picture above, we used a lowball glass and one giant ice cube.  This made for a more potent cocktail.)
2. Add Campari to glass.
3. Fill glass with club soda and top with a splash of lemon juice.  If the cocktail is too bitter, add another splash of lemon juice.
4. Stir then add a piece of lemon peel for garnish.  (You can use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to do this.)

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Mom’s Easy Easter Quiche

7 Apr

For Easter brunch tomorrow, I’m making my mom’s super easy and delicious quiche recipe.  She has been making it for so long that she doesn’t use a recipe.  It’s always delicious, but it tastes different with every preparation.  I’m a stickler for following her recipe to a tee because I think the combination of spices is perfect.  Also, this while this recipe calls for heavy cream and whole milk, you can substitute skim or low fat milk if you would prefer.  The resulting quiche will be less fluffy and creamy, but will still taste great with a lot less calories and fat.  In my mind, whenever I make this dish it’s for a festive occasion, so I like to stick with the heavy cream and whole milk and indulge a little!  Note: This recipe makes TWO quiches so if you only want to make one, halve the recipe.  This quiche does well refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for a couple of months though so I always make two and have an extra on hand when a quiche craving strikes!

Mom’s Easy Easter Quiche
Makes 2 quiches, each serving 6-8 people

Ingredients
2 deep dish pie crusts
Dijon mustard
1/2 pound of bacon, cooked and crumbled (6-8 slices)
2 cups shredded cheese (approximately 1 1/2 cups Jarlsberg and 1/2 cup Gruyere)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
6 eggs
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 cup unsifted flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Grated parmesan cheese
Spray butter or margarine

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Squeeze a large dollop of Dijon mustard on top of each pie crust.  Using the back of a spoon, spread so there is a thin layer of mustard along the bottom and sides of the pie pans.
3. Put crumbled bacon on the bottom of each pie pan.  There should be enough to cover most of the surface area of both pans.
4. Add shredded cheese on top of bacon, dividing evenly between both pie pans.
5. In a large bowl, mix onions, flour, salt, cayenne pepper and nutmeg.   In a small bowl, beat eggs.  Add egg mixture to large bowl of dry ingredients.  Slowly add in heavy cream and milk until fully mixed.
6. Pour mix into both pie pans on top of cheese, dividing evenly between the two.
7. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top of each pie and spray a few times with spray butter or margarine.
8. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.  Then turn temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
9. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Tastes great reheated – simply microwave a slice or warm it in the oven at 350 degrees for a few minutes.

For those of you looking for more of a sugar-filled Easter brunch, check out this link that my mom sent me for some special Cadbury Creme Egg recipes.  I wish I lived in the UK because a Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry sounds really yummy!

Happy Easter everyone!

Special Valentine’s Day Steak Dinner – Filet Mignon with Cognac Cream Sauce

12 Feb

Decadent Steak Recipe

Last year for Valentine’s Day, D and I took a couple’s cooking class at ICE Culinary School in NYC.  The theme of the class was “The Great New York Steakhouse” and over the course of the evening, we learned how to make: Shrimp Cocktail, Clams Casino, Caesar Salad, New York Strip Steak, Filet Mignon, Pork Chops, Creamed Spinach, Truffled Mashed Potatoes and Almond Bread Pudding.  Everything was delicious and we left the class stuffed and excited to re-make the recipes at home.  Our favorite dish was, hands down, Filet Mignon au Poivre with Cognac Cream Sauce.  It’s not an easy dish by any means but it’s so, so good and the sauce makes this dish really special and also decadent.  We loved it so much, we’re going to make it at home on Valentine’s Day this year and open up a bottle of Quintessa wine that we bought on our trip to Napa last August.  Since the sauce is on the heavier side, I generally serve this dish with roasted veggies (like roasted squash and brussels sprouts seen here) to balance the steak out.  Happy Valentine’s Day!  I hope you all like this meal as much as we do!

Filet Mignon au Poivre with Cognac Cream Sauce
(Adapted from ICE Culinary Class)
Serves 6

Ingredients
6 filet mignon, 6 oz. each
Salt & pepper
Canola oil
3 tbsp. butter, divided
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup cognac (I use Hennessy)
2 cups beef stock, reduced by half (I use low sodium stock)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. chervil, minced (or use parsley, I can never find fresh chervil at the grocery store)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Heat a large, saute pan and add oil to lightly coat bottom of pan. In a small pot, heat beef stock until half of the liquid has evaporated and you’re left with one cup.  (This intensifies the flavor of the stock.)
3. Season the filets with salt and pepper just before cooking.  *The trick to perfectly seasoned steaks is to use ROOM TEMPERATURE steaks, pat the meat dry before seasoning, season immediately before serving, and ensure the saute pan is hot BEFORE you put the steaks on it.
4. Add the filets to the saute pan and sear both sides.  *The steak is ready to be turned over when it gets a crust on the bottom and doesn’t stick to the pan.  Patience is very important here – don’t mess around with/move around the steaks once you put them in the pan unless you are flipping the steak over.  It should take max 5 minutes per side.
5. Once you finish the steaks, put the saute pan aside and transfer them to a baking dish and put them in the oven until desired level of doneness.  Estimates are   10-15 minutes for medium rare, 15-20 minutes for medium, 20+ for medium well/well done.  The temperature should be no lower than 130 degrees if you’re using a meat thermometer.  *A trick we learned in class is to relax your hand and feel the tendon part of your hand between your thumb and pointer finger.  That is how a medium rare steak should feel when you poke the middle of the steak and it’s done.
6. When done, place the filets on a wire race and let rest for 5 minutes.
7. While the steaks are in the oven, prepare the sauce.  Using the saute pan that you used to cook the steaks (Pour out the extra oil, but DO NOT CLEAN IT – the “fond” – little pieces of meat that stuck to the pan – adds extra flavor to the sauce), add 2 tbsp. butter and melt over medium-high heat.
8. When melted, add the shallots.  Cook the shallots until translucent and soft.  This should take about two minutes.
9. Deglaze (take pan off burner) and flambe with cognac.  *Trick – to flambe, pour the cognac into the saute pan then tilt the pan slightly so the liquid drains to one side.  Move the saute pan over the burner and the flame should cause the cognac to ignite.  Off the burner, swirl the liquid around in the pan until the flame has burned off.
10. When the flames have died down, scrape the pan to free the brown pieces of fond.   Add the reduced stock and let cook until further reduced by half.
11. Add  the heavy cream and reduce by half again.  It should be thick enough now that it coats the back of the spoon you’re stirring it with.
12. Finish the sauce by swirling in 1 tbsp. butter.  Do this OFF the heat.  Season with salt and pepper.
13. Serve sauce over cooked filet mignon and garnish with chervil.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 package brussels sprouts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Crushed red pepper, optional

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Clean brussels sprouts (cut off hard ends, remove yellow leaves).  In a large bowl, lightly coat brussels sprouts with olive oil.  Season with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.
3. Spread brussels sprouts on a baking dish (cover with foil if you want to make clean up easier).
4. Roast in oven for around 40 minutes.  They should be crispy on the outside but still tender inside.


Roasted Butternut Squash

Serves 6-8

Ingredients
2 whole butternut squash (or 6 pre-cut/cleaned/peeled butternut squash halves – you can find these at Fairway Market)
Cinnamon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 stick of butter

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. If using whole butternut squash, wash well then cut each in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds and gunk inside squash and discard so just the “meaty” part remains.
3. Using your hands, lightly rub olive oil on both sides of squash.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.
4. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray and place squash flesh side is face down.  Bake for 50-60 minutes (if squash is peeled) or 60-75 minutes if using whole squash.  It is finished when a knife can be easily inserted into the squash.
5. Melt butter and combine with maple syrup.  When squash has ten minutes or so left to cook, take it from oven and lightly brush squash with butter/maple syrup mixture.  The longer you cook the squash with the butter/maple syrup, the sweeter it will be.  The glaze will take around five minutes to set so that is the minimum cook time for the squash once the butter/maple syrup has been applied.
6. Remove from oven, cut each piece in half once more and serve immediately.

Decadent Filet Mignon Recipe

Sunday Supper: Healthy & Hearty Borscht

29 Jan

Low Sodium Borscht

Borscht is a traditional Ukranian soup/stew and makes a great hearty winter meal.  My father is part Ukranian and would have my mom make this for us a few times every winter and always on Valentine’s Day (because of the soup’s deep red color).  My mother used a recipe from the Joy of Cooking that I adapted to include meat and make the borscht more of a soup-consistency.  The main ingredients are beets and cabbage, two of the NY Times 11 Best Foods You Aren’t Eating, so while this is another recipe that doesn’t necessarily photograph well, it is an easy, savory winter meal that is also very healthy.  And delicious!

Healthy & Hearty Borscht
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition)
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups very finely chopped beets (I used pre-packaged peeled beets so I didn’t have to worry about roasting/peeling beets)
1/2 cup very finely chopped carrots
1 cup very finely chopped yellow onion
1 pound beef chuck, 1/2″ cubes (optional)
Flour (optional)
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups beef stock (low sodium) (Note: For a vegetarian option, use vegetable stock)
1 cup water
1 cup very finely shredded green cabbage
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste
Sour cream (or 0% Greek yogurt), for a garnish
Dill, for a garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Chop the beets, carrots, onion and cabbage in advance.  Set aside.
2. Lightly dredge the cubes of meat in a bowl of flour.
3. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a saute pan.  Add meat and cook until lightly browned.
4. Heat butter in soup pot over medium-low heat.  Once melted, add beets, carrots and onions.  Stirring continuously, cook until softened.  About 8 minutes.
5. Add beef stock, water, cabbage, red wine vinegar and meat to pot.  Bring to a bubbling simmer.  Once simmering, lower heat, partially cover soup with lid, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Serve hot.  Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream (or 0% Greek yogurt) and dill.

Note: This soup also tastes great cold.  I like it even better reheated as leftovers the next day though because the flavor intensifies and the broth thickens.

Low Sodium Borscht

Christmas Dinner: Hot Toddies

5 Jan

Honey Bourbon Hot Toddy

Don’t get me wrong, hot toddies are great, but I’ve always been more of a spiced cider, egg nog or hot chocolate kind of person.  This recipe from Bon Appetit’s December 2011 issue caught my eye because the picture was SO pretty and I could totally envision my family drinking these while sitting around the fire Christmas afternoon opening presents and relaxing after dinner.  I watered down the BA recipe a LOT because it was really strong.  My adaptation of their recipe is below.

Honey-Bourbon Hot Toddy
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2011 Issue
Serves 2

Ingredients
2 tbsp. honey
2 cups water
6 tbsp. bourbon
Lemon juice
Lemon peel, for garnish
Cinnamon stick, for garnish

Directions
1. Heat water on stove until just about to boil.  Take 1 cup of water and mix it with honey.  Stir until honey dissolves.
2. Add bourbon and mix.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice right and mix again.
3.  Divide between 2 mugs or Toddy glasses.  Add remaining water to mugs until you have reached desired strength of drink.  (I filled ours all the way to the top).
4. Add a lemon peel and cinnamon stick to each drink for garnish.  Serve warm.

Honey-Bourbon-Toddy-646

Honey Bourbon Toddy (Photo Courtesy of Bon Appetit, December 2011) - See what I mean about this picture? It's stunning!

Christmas Dinner: Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

3 Jan

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

I found a yummy looking recipe for pumpkin bread pudding on Smitten Kitchen from back in 2007!  Their recipe was adapted from Gourmet magazine and you can find their original post here.  I used more bread than I should have so to make the dessert creamier and less dry, I added creme anglaise sauce on top.  Both recipes are listed below.  The bread pudding calls for almost the exact same ingredients as a traditional pumpkin pie so this recipe is great if you are looking for that pumpkin pie flavor but a different texture dish.  Creme anglaise is a great recipe because it is so versatile – it can be served warm, cold or room temperature.  In addition to serving on top of bread pudding, I also like to eat it with berries in the morning for breakfast.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, October 2007 Issue

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 yolk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsp. bourbon (optional)
5 cups cubed (1″) day-old baguette or crusty bread (I used half a ciabatta loaf and a baguette.)
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle.
2. Mix together dry ingredients (sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves).
3. Slowly add eggs, milk, pumpkin and bourbon until well mixed.
4. Toss bread cubes with melted butter in another bowl and add to 8″x8″ baking pan.  Pour pumpkin mixture on top.  (Note: Only use as much bread as I did if you like thicker bread pudding.  When I make this again, I will probably do at least a cup less bread and cut the pieces smaller, so that you can see the “soupy” pumpkin mixture in the baking pan.)
5. Bake until pudding is set, which should take about 25-30 minutes.

Creme Anglaise
From the Joy of Cooking
Makes 2 Cups

Ingredients
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups hot milk
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp rum, Cognac or other liqueur (I used light rum)

Directions
1. Whisk egg yolks in 2-quart saucepan, adding the sugar by fairly rapid spoonfuls – if it goes in all at once, the yolks can turn grainy.
2. Continue beating 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.  By dribbles, stir in the hot milk – stirring, not beating, because you do not want the sauce to foam.
3. Set the saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring slowly with a wooden spoon and reaching all over the bottom and sides of the pan.  The sauce should gradually come near – but not to – a simmer.  You must be careful not to over heat it as this will scramble the yolks.  Indications that it is almost ready are that the surface bubbles begin to subside, and almost at once you may see a whiff of steam rising.
4. The sauce is done when it coats the wooden spoon with a light creamy layer thick enough to hold when you draw your finger across the back of the spoon.
5. Next beat in the vanilla, butter and run.  Spoon on top of bread pudding.  Sauce can be refrigerated in a covered container for several days.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

Christmas Dinner: Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon

1 Jan Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon

Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon

Before I get into today’s recipe, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year!!  I hope 2012 is a great year for you all!  My resolution is to snack healthier so I should have some recipes up in the next couple of weeks to this goal.  What are your resolutions?

I don’t remember when I first started making this recipe, but it’s an easy side dish to prepare and looks very elegant on the dining table.  This would also be a great dish to serve at a cocktail party.

Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 bunch asparagus
4-6 pieces of bacon
Salt & pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Clean and prepare asparagus by placing all of the stalks so the tips are all lined up.  This will help keep all stalks the same length.  Cut away the white hard ends of the asparagus and discard.
3. Divide the asparagus into 4-6 bunches of 4-6 pieces of asparagus each.  They should be small bunches; the thicker the bunches are, the harder it is to cook evenly.
4. Wrap each bundle together in the middle using one piece of bacon.
5. Season each bundle with salt and pepper.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil so they won’t burn during the roasting.
6. Bake in oven for 25 minutes until bacon is cooked and asparagus is roasted.  They should be cooked through but still crunchy.

Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon