Friday, November 29, 2013

Leftover Cranberry Sauce? Make a Cranberry Blue Cheese Crostini

Do you have leftover cranberry sauce and not sure what to do with it? Then try this easy cranberry blue cheese crostini. If you’re been reading My Carolina Kitchen for a while you’ve probably seen it, but it’s so simple and delicious, that I’m showing it again for those who might have missed it.

All you need to do is toast some slices of a crusty French baguette, top with a few sprigs of fresh arugula or watercress, then a dab of cranberry sauce, a slice of good blue cheese, a tiny drizzle more of cranberry sauce and a crank of freshly ground black pepper and you’re good to go. For a festive touch during the holiday season, garnish with a sprig of holly from your garden or the florist.

I’ve used my “French” cranberry sauce, link here, but any good cranberry sauce will do.

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

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Plethora of Cranberry Sauces & Relishes

There is never a Thanksgiving at our house without cranberry sauce and this year will be no exception. I’ve been making my own cranberry sauce for years and each year I try a couple of new ones.

The first new one is fresh cranberry relish and it’s important that you use fresh cranberries, not frozen ones, because the cranberries are not cooked in this recipe. The ingredients may sound a bit strange, but the fresh flavors of the cranberries and oranges are very refreshing. The relish just bursts in your mouth and the crunch of the nuts gives it a nice dimension. The first bite reminded me of fresh oranges flavored with cranberries and it looks like colorful sunrise on the plate. I have to admit this one stole my heart.

Fresh Cranberry Relish
Adapted from Red Book magazine – makes 2 cups
Printable Recipe

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries (do not use frozen cranberries)
1 small navel orange (unpeeled), quartered or if large, cut into 1/8’s
¼ cup good orange marmalade
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup golden raisins, chopped
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans, toasted, plus a little for garnish
A half slice of fresh orange for garnish

In a food processor, roughly chop cranberries, oranges, sugar, raisins and horseradish to combine. (Check to make sure the oranges are fully incorporated before continuing.) Remove relish from processor and stir in the nuts. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours. Relish can be made 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving and garnish with a chopped nuts and fresh orange slice.

The next new recipe is also a relish and would be good with smoked turkey. It’s from a very old Cooking Light recipe and is fairly low in sugar compared to most cranberry sauces. It cooks for a relatively short period of time compared to most.

Sweet & Sour Cranberry Relish
Adapted from an old Cooking Light recipe – serves 6
Printable Recipe

½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups fresh cranberries
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons good cider vinegar

Coat a saucepan with cooking spray. Place over medium high heat until hot. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender. Add cranberries, sugar and water and bring to a boil. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture is thickened. Stir in the vinegar. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature.

The next three you may remember from last year. This is a citrusy one flavored with dried figs and crunchy nuts. It is another relish and I really enjoyed the crunch of the nuts. My mother used to make a molded cranberry jelly with pecans and the nuts in this one brought back fond memories for me of my childhood. I can still see the pecan tree in the back yard and remember well what a chore it was to crack the pecans and separate the nuts from the shells.

Cranberry Fig Relish
Cooking Light – serves 12
Printable Recipe

1 cup fresh orange juice (about 4 oranges)
¾ cup chopped dried figs
½ cup dry red wine
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1/3 cup chopped roasted fresh pecans or walnuts

Combine the orange juice, figs, and red wine in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add both sugars and the cranberries. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until mixture is slightly thick and berries pop, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. Stir in nuts but leave a few for garnish. Cover and chill. If you make this a few days ahead, leave out the nuts until just before serving so they remain crunchy.

This cranberry sauce is a mixture of fresh cranberries and dried tart cherries, flavored with crème de cassis, a popular French black current-flavored liqueur commonly used in a Kir or a Kir Royale. The cherry flavor really comes through in this cranberry sauce and offers a new and exciting taste to the traditional.

Cranberry Sauce with Cassis and Dried Cherries
Cooking Light – serves 12
Printable Recipe

1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup finely chopped shallots
2/3 cup dried tart cherries
½ cup crème de cassis (black currant-flavored liqueur)
¾ cup sugar
1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh lemon rind

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add oil, swirl to coat the pan. Add shallots and sauté for 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let them brown or burn. Add cherries, crème de cassis, sugar, and cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes or until cranberries began to pop, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon rind, but save a little for a garnish. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Last, but certainly not least, is our traditional cranberry sauce is flavored with red wine with a citrus undertone and I’ve dubbed it “French” cranberry sauce because of the wine, even though the French don’t have a cranberry sauce that I know of. No matter how many new ones I try, this one will always be my favorite.

My Carolina Kitchen’s “French” Cranberry Sauce
A citrus twist on a classic – serves 12
Printable Recipe

1 (12 ounce) package of fresh or frozen cranberries
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup dry red wine, preferably French
¾ cup to 1 ½ cups sugar, or to taste (I use 1 cup)
2 navel oranges

Put the cranberries (no need to thaw if they’re frozen) in a sauce pan with the one of the cinnamon sticks, red wine, and sugar. Zest the oranges and set aside half of the zest for a garnish. Add the remaining zest and the juice of both oranges to the cranberry mixture. Stir the cranberry mixture and bring to a boil.  Partially cover the saucepan and simmer about 15 minutes, until the cranberries have burst. Remove from the heat, let cool, and discard the cinnamon stick. The sauce will firm up as it cools. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to five days. At the last minute, garnish with the remaining fresh citrus zest. Serve at room temperature.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farms, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.

For better viewing, click photos to enlarge.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who will be celebrating this Thursday and I hope everyone has a very nice weekend.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rustic-style Herbed Bread Dressing with Sausage & Mushrooms

Most years I make a typical southern-style cornbread dressing similar to what was served in my home on Thanksgiving when I was a child, but I was in the mood for a change this year and wanted to try my hand at a bread based dressing. Slightly spicy sweet Italian sausage and rich earthy cremini mushrooms bring a lot of hearty flavors to this rustic-style herb bread dressing. Using artisan bread adds another dimension of freshness instead of using the dried packaged bread stuffing mix. And of course it’s not dressing without the traditional flavors of fresh thyme and sage herbs. An aromatic mirepoix of vegetables rounds out the dish. I did increase the amount of fresh thyme and sage by half again from the original recipe, so if you think that might be too herby for your family’s taste, cut them back to one tablespoon each.

I’ve used cremini mushrooms in this recipe. Often you’ll see them labeled baby portabellos or baby bellas. The differences between white button mushrooms, cremini and portabellos can be confusing and what it boils down to a matter of their age. The cultivated white button mushrooms are the youngest variety of button mushrooms. When the mushroom is left to grow for longer and become mature, they turn brown, their tops spread out and that is the portabello. The cremini mushroom is the one in between. It is a moderately mature version of the white button mushroom yet younger than the portabello, hence the name baby portabellos or baby bellas.

Cranberry sauce is one of my Thanksgiving specialties and I will be posting several versions early next week for those of you that love cranberry sauce, so stay tuned. Here’s a close-up of the herbed bread dressing. Dig in with your fork

Rustic-style Herbed Bread Dressing with Sausage & Mushrooms
Adapted from Wine, Food & Friends by Karen MacNeil, based on a Lightened-up Recipe Makeover from Cooking Light, yield 12 servings

1 ½ pounds peasant-style artisan white bread
4 (4 ounce) links sweet Italian turkey or chicken sausage in casings
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 pound cremini or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, tough stems trimmed off, then quartered
2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 ¼ cups chopped mild white or yellow onion
1 ¼ cups peeled & chopped carrots
1 ¼ cups chopped celery
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 ½ tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ tablespoons minced fresh sage
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Cooking spray
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 (14 ounce) can fat-free low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade if you have it)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut bread into 1” cubes and arrange in a single layer on a half sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes. Toss half way through to insure evening browning. Remove from the oven and place in an extra large mixing bowl. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Cook sausage links in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes until they are cooked through, browning evenly on all sides. Remove from the skillet and set aside until they are cool enough to slice. After they are sliced, add to the bowl with the bread cubes.

In that same skillet, melt 2 teaspoons of butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until they’ve given up their liquid, salting about half way though. Add them to the bowl along with the bread.

Carefully wipe out the skillet and add the 2 tablespoons of butter. Sauté the onions, carrots and celery over medium-high heat until they have softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley, thyme, sage, salt and freshly ground black and sauté one minute to incorporate. Add the vegetables to the bowl with the bread, sausages and mushrooms.

Whisk together the eggs and chicken broth. Stir the liquid into the bread mixture to moisten and toss well to coat. Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray, then spread the bread mixture evenly in the dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. Serve warm. Yield 12 servings.

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

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, and Olive Salad

This is a nice spicy fall salad, filled with the flavors of the Mediterranean. The briny kalamata olives and feta cheese pair well with the spicy warm roasted butternut squash that’s been seasoned with touches of cumin and cayenne pepper and dressed with a red wine and shallot vinaigrette. We found this to be a lovely fall vegetarian lunch or a fine accompaniment to a roasted chicken or pork loin.

I don’t know about you, but I dread dealing with hard winter vegetables such as butternut squash or pumpkin. They’re difficult to cut and a challenge to peel. So I asked the green grocer to cut the butternut squash in half, which prevented me from having to enlist my husband and his trusty long French chef’s knife. Then I relied on a wide peeler to remove the skin. Believe me, a regular thin vegetable peeler would take forever and frustrate you at the same time. The wide peeler, example here from Williams Sonoma, is your best friend when it comes to peeling big hard vegetables. Roasting is definitely the way to cook butternut squash. As you can see in this photo, the high temperature gives it a nice caramelization.

Make sure to find a nice creamy feta cheese that comes in brine (heavily salted water). The dry crumbly feta just won’t get the job done here. It might look okay, but it lacks the taste and texture of the brined cheese.

We learned something the other day about olives. At an Italian market we overheard a customer order a scoop of kalamata olives with pits and Meakin asked him why, since it’s so much more convenient to buy them already pitted. He explained that the olives have more flavor with the pits, because when the pits are removed, the olive is more exposed to the brine and that affects the flavor. Interesting. I was giving up flavor for a short-cut.

Speaking of olives, Bill Granger, whose recipe I’ve adapted here, says if you find store-bought olives a bit too salty for your taste, soak them in water for an hour or two and then drain. If you want marinated olives, pour a little good extra virgin olive oil over them and add green peppercorns, garlic cloves, or other seasonings that suit your taste.

The original recipe calls for pumpkin, so feel free to substitute it or sweet potatoes for the butternut squash. Next time I would cut the olives in half lengthwise to make the olives go further in the dish. This warm and spicy salad is a definite have-again.

Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash, Feta, and Olive Salad
Adapted from Bill’s Food by Bill Granger – serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb, 12 ounces butternut squash, cut into ¾” cubes
3 ½ ounces baby spinach leaves
5 ½ ounces feta cheese in brine, drained and crumbled
20 Kalamata olives, pitted (sliced in half if desired)

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely sliced or chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Measure the olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper into a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to combine. Place the squash on a roasting pan large enough to hold the cubes without crowding. Pour the spices over the squash and with your hands, stir the cubes to combine with the spice mix.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and slightly caramelized. Set aside to cool very slightly, yet still warm, while you assemble the vinaigrette and the salad.

Combine the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to combine.

Divide the spinach leaves among four serving plates and scatter warm squash, feta and olives over the top. Drizzle each salad with the red wine shallot vinaigrette. Serve right away.

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

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chocolate Cassis Cake to celebrate our 5th Blog Anniversary

My Carolina Kitchen is celebrating its 5th blog anniversary and I wanted to make something rich and decadent to thank all of you for your support along my journey. It’s been a wonderful and rewarding five years. Meakin and I have been fortunate enough to meet many of you and your families in person and look forward to meeting more of you in the coming year. Blogging has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me, other than marrying the love of my life forty-four years ago tomorrow.

What better way to celebrate than with a cake. But this isn’t just any old cake – its Ina Garten’s rich, decadent, dark chocolate cassis cake, glazed with a dark chocolate ganache spiked with crème de cassis, and served with bright red, sweet berries on the side.

Many of you that know me well know that I’m not a baker. The funny part of it is that my mother was an excellent baker, baked bread daily, and was best known for her luscious angel food cakes and rich brownies. Somehow I didn’t inherit her sweet tooth and I don’t make desserts very often. If the truth be told, this is only the second cake I’ve ever made. The first was another rich and decadent cake - an almond Limoncello cake, featured on the blog a couple of years ago, link here. I make it only on special occasions or for very dear friends.

I was surprised how easily this cake came together because most of the work is done by your stand mixer. You can make this cake ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. The main flavoring ingredient besides dark chocolate is crème de cassis, a black current liqueur that is used in the popular French aperitif Kir and Kir Royal. A Kir is made with a dash of crème de cassis topped with white wine and the Kir Royal is made the same way but topped with bubbling champagne.

I read the reviews of the cake before we prepared it and made a few small changes. A couple of people remarked that the cake was sticky to cut because it was so moist, so we added a couple of tablespoons of flour to the batter. I would also recommend that you clean your knife between slices because of the stickiness of the cake. You can see how moist the cake is below.

Several people suggested cutting back on the amount of sugar and cassis in the berries, so we took their advice. If you don’t like or don’t have crème de cassis, one reviewer substituted cherry liqueur for the cassis and used cherries in place of the berries. I think that sounds like a marvelous idea when fresh cherries are in season.

For the presentation of this cake, fresh mint sprigs are essential. We did this photo shoot twice. Once without the mint and the cake was dark and uninteresting. When we added the mint sprig it changed everything and the appearance improved dramatically. So please don't forget the mint.

The cake is very impressive and was a very big hit. I would definitely make it again, especially if you love dark chocolate as much as I do. It will absolutely satisfy those cravings. Be careful with left-over’s though. If you are a chocoholic, it’s very tempting to stand at the kitchen counter and eat the whole thing with a spoon.

Chocolate Cassis Cake
Adapted slightly from Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa & The Food Network – serves 10 to 12

For the cake:
Baking spray with flour, such as Baker's Joy
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To serve:
2 (1/2 pint) boxes fresh raspberries
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons crème de cassis liqueur
Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

For the cake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round spring form pan with baking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray it again with baking spray.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Set aside to cool for 5 minutes. Whisk in the cocoa powder, flour, cassis, and vanilla and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (you can also use a hand mixer), beat the eggs, sugar, and salt on high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until pale yellow and triple in volume. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and carefully but thoroughly fold them together with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until just barely set in the center. Allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes and then release the sides of the pan. Invert the cake carefully onto a flat serving plate, remove the parchment paper, and cool completely.

For the glaze, melt the chocolate and cream together in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until smooth. Off the heat, whisk in the cassis and vanilla. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and spread over just the top of the cake.

Fifteen minutes before serving, toss the berries gently with the sugar and cassis. Cut the cake in wedges and serve with the berries on the side and garnish with fresh mint sprigs.

This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday at Simple Recipes, Foodtastic Friday at Not Your Ordinary Recipes, Food on Friday at Carol's Chatter, and Seasonal Sunday at the Tablescaper.

Thank each & every one of you again from both of us for your continued support as we celebrate My Carolina Kitchen's 5th anniversary. This photo was snapped at a party a few years ago. Tomorrow we will be celebrating our 44th wedding anniversary. Life has been good to us.

Have a great weekend everyone.