Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tuscan White Bean Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

In theory this is a salad, but it’s more of what I think of as comfort food. It’s the kind of food I crave when the weather starts to cool. Even though the recipe looks long, it’s very simple to make and doesn’t require a lot of attention while is cooks.

Most likely you already know out of your head how to cook dried beans and to roast tomatoes and if you do, there’s nothing much left to do other than to assemble the salad. It’s perfect for serve yourself buffets or double or triple it for a covered dish party.

If you’re in a pinch for time, you could substitute canned beans. But I think beans cooked from scratch always taste superior in flavor as well as have a nicer texture. In truth, they beans practically cook themselves and require very little attention from you.

Tuscan White Bean Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes  
Adapted from Williams Sonoma’s Cooking for Friends – serves 4 – 6
Printable Recipe

Slow roasted tomatoes – recipe below
Slow cooked Tuscan white beans – recipe below
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves + a few for garnish
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup champagne vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place roasted tomatoes in a bowl. Add cooked white beans, oregano, olive oil, and vinegar and toss to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in bowl or transfer to a platter. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves.

Cook’s notes: This salad is excellent served either warm or at room temperature. It’s perfect for a serve yourself buffet or to double it for a covered dish party.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Williams Sonoma’s Cooking for Friends – serves 4 – 6

8 to 10 plum tomatoes or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
About ¼ cup good extra-virgin olive oil
About 1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, on prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with sugar, garlic, and generous amounts of salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes until deep red and wrinkled, 2 – 2 ½ hours for medium or plum tomatoes and 1 hour for cherry tomatoes. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet. Taste for seasonings and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cook’s notes: If you can find them, yellow tomatoes added to red tomatoes make a pretty combination.

Slow-cooked Tuscan White Beans
Adapted from Williams Sonoma’s Cooking for Friends – serves 6

2 cups dried white beans such as cannellini or great northern
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 springs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a large Dutch oven, combine beans, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, garlic and 8 cups of water. Cover and slowly bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer uncovered, until beans are tender but not mushy. About half-way through the cooking process, add 1 tablespoon sea salt. Remove from heat and let cool, covered for 15 minutes.

Drain beans and discard their cooking liquid. If desired, discard rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and garlic. Sprinkle the beans with pepper and more sea salt if needed, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Cook’s notes: Be careful not to let the beans cook at too high of a simmer or their skins will separate and the beans will be mushy.  I usually check beans about 10 minutes before they are supposed to be done to avoid over-cooking.

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 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.