Thursday, October 16, 2014

Frozen Chocolate Truffles

It’s time to clean out the freezer – one of my least favorite chores. We do it once in the spring and again in the fall. Thankfully I’ve been more careful about labeling things this year so I don’t find mystery bags of who-knows-what. We found an opened one gallon French vanilla ice cream that contained just enough to make two servings of frozen chocolate cream truffles.

This decadent dessert takes only minutes to prepare, but make sure you allow time necessary for the ice cream balls to properly freeze in both steps. If you want to have fun with it, use a variety of flavors of ice cream for the three truffles that make a serving.

I consider desserts such as these truffles and affogato, the classic Italian ice cream dessert drowned in espresso, to be truly seasonless. Especially after a heavy meal, refreshing desserts are always appropriate regardless of the time of the year.

Frozen Chocolate Truffles
Adapted from The Complete 15-Minute Gourmet by Paulette Mitchell – makes 12 truffles for 4 servings 
Printable Recipe

1 pint of your favorite premium ice cream or a variety of your favorites (I used French vanilla)
2 ounces semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened or sweetened – I used unsweetened)

Optional garnishes:
4 fresh strawberries
4 sprigs of mint

Use the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate as a template to cut a sheet of wax paper to fit the pie plate. Using a small (about 1 ½”) ice cream scoop, drop 12 balls of ice cream onto the pie plate. If the ice cream balls have rough edges, use a small teaspoon to smooth their surface. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and freeze for ½ hour or until firm.

When you are ready to assemble the truffles, put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on MEDIUM for about 1 ½ minutes or until liquid. Stir the chocolate to melt any remaining chunks and set to cool slightly.

While the melted chocolate is cooling, spread the cocoa powder on a large plate or a sheet of wax paper for easy clean-up. Roll the frozen ice cream balls in the powder, pressing gently, and return them to the wax paper covered pie plate. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the ice cream balls. Return the plate to the freezer for at least ½ hour before serving. To store for up to 2 days, cover with plastic wrap. Recipe makes 12 truffles for 4 servings. Garnish each serving if desired with a strawberry and a sprig of fresh mint.

*Cook’s note: I placed the martini glasses in the freezer to help keep the truffles from melting. I suggest that you do the same, whether you serve them on a platter or in a glass.

For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Weekend Bites at Simple Recipes.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fast Chicken Chili

This is a great chili to make if you’re pressed for time and want dinner on the table in a hurry. I am accustomed to a dark chili made with beef, but I was surprised how much we liked it. In fact, I was so afraid that it wouldn’t resemble chili that I substituted dark kidney beans for some of the white beans in hopes that it would resemble a more traditional chili. It was such as success that we will definitely have it again.

I did make a few changes to the original recipe other than using dark red kidney beans for some of the white beans. I read the on-line reviews and, based on those, I upped the amount of seasonings, reduced the amount of water so it would be less “soupy” and added about a half of pound of ground pork for extra flavor and to make it more substantial. I find that for recipes that have reviews, it’s smart to read them because you get some insight to how the recipe works or in some cases why it doesn’t work. To see the original recipe, click on the link to Cooking Light in the recipe itself. If you want more than 1 cup of chili per person, count on it serving four rather than six.    

Cornbread makes a nice side with chili. If you’re hungry for chili and don’t have a lot of time, give this a try. We were not disappointed and are glad to have different chili recipe to call on from time to time.

Fast Chicken Chili 
Adapted from Cooking Light, serves 6 (1 cup servings)
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons canola oil, separated
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
Kosher salt
½ pound lean ground pork (optional, but very good)
½ cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
3 teaspoons ground cumin
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ - ½ teaspoon ground red pepper (depending on how hot you like it)
2 (15.5 ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15.5 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup water
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies, undrained
1 (4 ounce) can chopped Hatch chilies, undrained
3 cups low sodium, low fat chicken broth
¼ cup cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges

Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle chicken with salt and add to pan and sauté 4 minutes, then remove from the pan and wipe the pan clean. Reheat pan over medium-high heat, add remaining tablespoon oil and add the pork, season with salt and sauté the pork until it browns. Add chicken back to pan along with the onion, garlic, cumin, ground coriander, dried oregano and ground red pepper and sauté about 3 minutes to incorporate the onion and spices. Add 1 can of cannellini beans, 1 can dark kidney beans, water, 1 can chilies, and chicken broth & bring to a boil.

Put the the remaining can of cannellini beans in a bowl along with the remaining can of green chilies. Mash well until the mixture almost resembles a paste. Add to soup, and then simmer 5 minutes. The chili should now be nice and thick. If it’s too thick, add a little more water.

Serve with cilantro and lime wedges. The fresh lime adds a nice fresh flavor to the chili. Excellent with Southern cornbread alongside.

The chili can be made in advance and stored covered in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Reheat gently and add cilantro at the last minute.

For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Weekend Bites at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Strawberry Parfaits with Yogurt and Granola

I can’t think of a better way to start your day than with a healthy and colorful breakfast parfait. Fruit parfaits really step up the breakfast game, plus they take only a few minutes to put together. They are also a wonderful way to incorporate the various seasonal fruits into your breakfast throughout the year.

I adapted this recipe from Betty Rosbottom’s Sunday Brunch – Simple, Delicious Recipes for Leisurely Mornings. My friend Bonnie From a Writer’s Kitchen introduced this delightful book to me and I am so grateful that she did. At our house we never miss breakfast. There’s a phrase “eat like a king for breakfast, a queen for lunch and a pauper for dinner” and that probably explains why breakfast is my favorite meal.

Betty’s cookbook offers deliciously creative ideas for breakfast for all seasons. The picture of her plum parfaits with yogurt and granola in parfait glasses was so appealing that I adapted the recipe to use fresh strawberries in place of the plums and substituted brandy snifters for the parfait glasses. This recipe comes together very quickly, but you need to let the cooked strawberries come to room temperature before you assemble the parfaits. The parfaits may be prepared and refrigerated up to 1 hour in advance, but if you like your granola crunchy like I do, then assemble them right before serving.

Strawberry Parfaits with Yogurt and Granola
Adapted from Sunday Brunch by Bette Rosbottom, serves 6
Printable recipe

1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled
1/3 cup plus 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt (low fat is fine)
½ teaspoon good-quality vanilla
¾ cups good-quality purchased granola

Slice hulled strawberries. Place a heavy large frying pan over medium heat. Add sliced strawberries and sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar, ginger and cinnamon. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves and becomes syrupy and the strawberries are tender when pierced with a knife, about 4 - 6 minutes. Watch carefully so fruit does not become overcooked and mushy. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (very important).

In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, remaining 1 ½ tablespoons sugar and vanilla.

To serve, spoon about ¼ cup strawberry mixture, including juices, into each of six medium-size wine or parfait glasses. Top each with 2 to 3 tablespoons yogurt. Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon granola. Repeat layers. Serve immediately.

If breakfast parfaits appeal to you, you might also like a breakfast fruit crunch with assorted fresh fruit that appeared on My Carolina Kitchen several years ago. Link to recipe here.

For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Weekend Bites at Simple Recipes.
Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Smoked Salmon Sandwich on a French Baguette

On an Air France flight from Paris to Marseilles several years ago we were served a smoked salmon sandwich on a French baguette for lunch. It was a very simple looking sandwich that the flight attendant passed out to passengers that day, but after one bite I had to know what made that simple sandwich so tasty and flavorful.

I knew France was known for their baguettes and deservedly so. The French absolutely do make the best baguettes in the world and the one on this sandwich certainly lived up to the reputation. But there was something else that set that sandwich apart from the sandwiches I make at home. What could it be?

So I opened my sandwich to have a peek inside to see what the mystery ingredient was that brought such incredible flavor to this seemly simple sandwich. Hmm, thinly sliced smoked salmon seasoned with a bit of cracked black pepper and a few greens sprinkled about? No, that’s not what I’m looking for.

Then I saw it – smooth creamy butter spread on both side of the baguette. I had an “ah ha” moment. Of course it’s the butter. European-style butters have much more flavor compared to American butter.

I should have guessed it was the European butter to begin with. In the Bahamas European butters were available in even in the smallest of mom and pop stores throughout the islands. In fact, because of the duty and stamp tax, imported American made butters were more expensive than their European cousins, so we began to buy the European ones. Their rich and creamy flavor almost reminded me of a really good cheese. We quickly became spoiled by the European butters and never looked back.

Enter Presidents European style butter. I was offered the opportunity to try their butter and they sent three butters – stick, whipped, and whipped with sea salt. I made several different compound butters with the stick butter recently, see post here.

For this sandwich, I used Presidents whipped butter with the sea salt and it is fabulous on this smoked salmon sandwich. President Butter is France’s #1 selling butter, where people consume more butter than anywhere else in the world. It is made cultured cream in the European tradition with no added oils. President Premium butter is available in many supermarkets in the US, including Publix stores. We found President Butter to be rich and creamy and highly recommend it. In fact Meakin made the comment "this is killer butter." That's high praise.

To assemble this sandwich, slice a crusty French baguette lengthwise, open it and spread some butter, preferably European butter, on both sides of the bread. Top the bottom half of the sandwich with a sprinkling of fresh arugula or spring mix, top with slices of smoked salmon. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and salt if you wish. Slice into individual servings and enjoy. This is a great sandwich for a picnic. To make it portable, wrap the bottom half (or the entire sandwich for that matter) with parchment paper and tie with a ribbon or a piece of raffia.

Bon Appétit.

For better viewing, click on photos to enlarge.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Weekend Bites at Simple Recipes.    
Have a great week everyone.

Disclosure: We were given free samples of President's butter to try. The opinions here are ours. We did not receive compensation neither for this post nor for our opinion.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

5 Course Dinner at the Chef’s Table at Rezaz featuring the Foods of Provence

Recently we discovered that Rezaz, a Mediterranean restaurant and one of our favorites, in Asheville, North Carolina offers the opportunity to dine at the Chef’s table in their kitchen. It’s something we’ve always dreamed of doing, so several weeks ago when we were having lunch at the restaurant, Meakin inquired about it and learned that Rezaz offers a 5 course tasting menu for up to 12 people. The menu is personally created for you by Chef Reza himself and can be coordinated to your personal taste. You know our love of France and in particular the Provence region, so I’m sure it doesn’t come as as a surprise to you that we requested a menu designed around the foods of Provence.

We invited two other couples to join us for the evening – Meakin’s brother Stuart and his wife Sandy and friends David and Penny, of Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen, who is one of my favorite food bloggers. I know many of you follow Penny’s blog. Penny and David have visited Provence numerous times as have we and we all both know and love the food of that region.

Photo of Chef Reza Selayesh courtesy of Rezaz website

The concept of the Chef’s Table came about from the fact that chefs work long hours and also want to see their friends and families, so they would often feed them in the kitchen as they prepared meals for the other guests of the restaurant. The Chef’s table gives you an opportunity to be part of the family as you dine beside the “line” and under the “Pandelier,” photo below, a very interesting & unusual large metal sculpture that was created from Chef Reza’s original sauté pans that he used during the restaurant’s first decade.

The afternoon of the dinner Penny and David invited us to visit them at Lake Lure for the afternoon of hors d’oeuvres and wine and a boat ride around the lake. Penny prepared a wonderful selection of delicious appetizers including leek and sweet pepper mini French quiches, a simple platter of peppered dry-aged salami with hot house cucumbers, and a creamy red pepper cheese cake accompanied with crackers and grapes that I absolutely fell in love with. David poured a French Rose wine that kept the French theme going. Here’s a link to Penny’s blog with pictures and recipes.

On our arrival at the restaurant Chef Reza warmly greeted each of us personally as we entered his kitchen to welcome us and shook our hand before we were seated at his Chef’s table. Our waiter explained that the chef runs a quiet kitchen (unlike what one might think from the reality cooking shows seen on television today), and he went on to say that of course we were free to talk and have all the fun we wanted. I found the quiet kitchen interesting as Jacques Pepin recently shared his thoughts about the reality cooking shows on television in an article in The Daily Meal titled “How Reality Shows Get It Wrong” link here. This is a direct quote from Jacques in the article: “The so-called “reality” cooking shows are, if anything, totally unreal. A real, well-run professional kitchen has dignity and order. If cameras went into Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, or Grant Achatz’s Alinea in Chicago, they would see a kitchen that is well organized, with a contented, dedicated, hard-working staff.” 

At dinner we sat across from our respective spouses – from bottom left to bottom right – moi, Meakin’s brother Stuart, Penny & David, Stuart’s wife Sandy, and Meakin.

Here are some shots of the kitchen at work at Rezaz. Notice how important mis en place is in a professional kitchen in the first photo. Julia Child used to say you have to be happy to cook when you cook for the food to be good. Notice how happy everyone seems to be working together in the kitchen.

Rezaz’s Chef’s Table 
5 course Tasting Menu 
Featuring the Foods of Provence

Smoked salmon rillette
Trout & crab galantine
Moule Curry

Pan seared sashimi grade cobia a la Provençal
Sautéed French gnocchi
Seared scallops with Rezaz’s signature arugula pesto
Summer vegetables ratatouille

Duck leg confit topped with sautéed spinach
& crispy fried shallots 
With a cherry gastrique sauce
Roasted Yukon gold potatoes

Grilled lamb chop
Lamb Naverin
Gigot d’agneau with French thyme and wild rosemary

Summer berry clafoutis
Lemon & berry sorbet garnished with touile cookie

Notice the attention to detail and how generous the portions are. Any one of these could have been my main meal.

We began the meal with smoked salmon rillette, trout & crab galantine & a moule curry.

Pan seared sashimi grade cobia a la Provençal sautéed French gnocchi, seared scallops served over a summer vegetable ratatouille.

Duck leg confit topped with sautéed spinach & crispy fried shallots with a cherry gastrique sauce, accompanied by roasted Yukon gold potatoes tucked under the duck breast.

Three different lamb dishes - a grilled lamb chop, lamb Naverin & gigot d’agneau with French thyme and wild rosemary served with Rezaz’s signature arugula pesto.

A summer berry clafoutis and a lemon & berry sorbet garnished with a crispy touile cookie. When we last dined at Rezaz, we met the pastry chef. She was trained in several various Le Cordon Bleu locations before settling in Asheville. As you can see, she is quite talented.

It was a fabulous evening and one I think we will all savor and remember for a long time. The servings were generous, the staff very attentive, and the food quite remarkable. Chef Reza is a very talented and highly dedicated to quality and customer service. I would highly recommend Rezaz for lunch or dinner or a private party when you are in the area. Also don’t miss taking a tour of the Biltmore Estate & Gardens when you are in Asheville. Rezaz is located very near the Biltmore Estate. I wrote about our visit there a couple of years ago, link here. You won’t want to miss it.

Rezaz Restaurant & Wine Bar is located in Biltmore Village at 28 Hendersonville -Road, Asheville, North Carolina. For reservations phone 828-277-1510.  Here’s a link to their website where you can obtain additional information, have a look at their menus and read about Chef Reza. Rezaz can also be found on Facebook and Chef Reza writes a Journal featuring various menus here.

Penny is also writing about the dinner and I highly recommend that you stop by her blog as well. We coordinated our posts to coincide to enable our readers to see each other's pictures and read about the dinner and the evening from two points of view. Here’s a link to Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen.

For better viewing – click photos to enlarge