Friday, December 31, 2010

Cranberry-Lemon Cheesecake

I was simultaneously yearning to make something with fresh cranberries and needing to come up with a dessert for New Year's Eve, so this was the result. The blackberries were Riley's addition.

Adapted from a Bon Appétit magazine recipe, 1998.

CRUST
3 C finely ground graham crackers
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Wrap outside of pan with 2 layers of heavy-duty foil. Blend crackers, sugar and cinnamon in processor. Add butter; blend until moist clumps form. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of pan. Chill crust while preparing filling.

FILLING
3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 C sugar
4 large eggs
2 C sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

PUREE
2 C fresh cranberries
2/3 C sugar
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
2 T grated lemon peel
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
4 t vanilla extract

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Beat cream cheese in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in sugar. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Mix in sour cream and vanilla.

Transfer 1/3 of filling to prepared crust. Dollop 1/3 of cranberry puree atop filling. Repeat layering of filling and puree 2 more times. Using knife, swirl puree through filling, creating marbled design.

Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake until cheesecake puffs around edges, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Turn off oven. Let cake stand in oven 1 hour, leaving oven door ajar.

Transfer cake to rack. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Cool completely. Remove foil from pan sides. Cover cake and chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Remove pan sides to serve.

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Tepin-Marinated Cornish Game Hens

This is a variation of the Comanche Marinated Quail that I did for Thanksgiving this year. I did one hen person, but we have lots of leftovers! One hen can easily be split between two people.

4 crushed tepin chilis*
1 bottle of beer
1/4 C vinegar (I used a red wine vinegar)
1 t ground cumin
1 t paprika
1 T oregano
1 t sea salt
1/4 C maple-agave syrup
1/4 C unsulphered molasses
2 T fresh, rough-chopped cilantro

Whisk all marinade ingredients together and marinate hens overnight or for at least 6 hours. Grill over hot coals.

*Thanks, again, to Jenn Erickson - of Rook No. 17 - who gave me the wild dried tepin chilis in exchange for freshwater pearls!

Hunk of Meat Mondays

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Sea-Salt Lamb Lollipops

Because this was such a hit at our Christmas Eve dinner last week, I decided to do it all over again, except this time I added some red pepper flakes to the mix.

Place whole peppercorns - a mixture of white, pink, and black - and Himalayan pink sea salt in a mortar and crush slightly with a pestle. Rub the mixture on a Frenched rack of lamb and let sit for at least 10 minutes before grilling.

Once cooked, slice the rack into separate pieces - with the bone like a lollipop stick - and serve. Just like last week, I served the lamb with Michelle's spiced apple chutney; but I also offered the option of lignonberry jam from Denmark.

Delicious!

Hunk of Meat Mondays

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Eve Menu at the Manns

After Riley's mandolin lesson this evening, we headed to Trader Joe's to pick up a few things for tomorrow's feast. Riley had some ideas of his own for a celebratory dinner. So, we settled on this menu...

Baked Brie with a Blueberry Compote and Water Crackers

Sea-Salt Lamb Lollipops with Spiced Apple Chutney

Marinated Cornish Game Hens with a Cornbread-Chestnut Stuffing

Winter Salad with Fennel, Pear, and Pomegranate Seeds

Cranberry-Lemon Cheesecake

Recipes and photos will follow.

Wishing you health and happiness tomorrow evening and the whole year through!

Fortuitous Feasting

Do you have any New Year's Eve dining traditions meant to bring good luck in the coming year? Two things I adopted from my time in Italy: clementines, though I don't usually take the time to wrap them individually in red cellophane, and lentils.

In the interest of fleshing out an entire New Year's Eve menu for tomorrow night, I did some research and found many, many different traditions from all around the world but the reasoning behind their lucky foods are oddly similar. Here are some of the overlapping auspiscious attributes: food that’s round (the shape of coins), food that's yellow or orange (the color of gold), food that's green (the color of spring leaves and paper money), fish (symbol of bounty), pork (prosperity and an animal that roots forward), legumes (coin-like seeds that expand like wealth) and cakes (sweetness is richness).

One tradition I found in Epicurious that I really like: "revelers in Spain consume twelve grapes at midnight—one grape for each stroke of the clock. This dates back to 1909, when grape growers in the Alicante region of Spain initiated the practice to take care of a grape surplus. The idea stuck, spreading to Portugal as well as former Spanish and Portuguese colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru."

I gladly added grapes to my shopping list today! As for the rest of my menu, stay tuned.

Monday, December 27, 2010

More Culinary Adventures to Come

As 2010 draws to a close, I've decided to renew my previous two years' resolution for the coming year: have a culinary adventure at least once a month!

From cooking a regional cuisine - South African, Morrocan, or Hungarian - to creating an entire menu with a single ingredient - Ode to an Aubergine, pumpkin, pumpkin, and more pumpkin - I've had a lot of fun in the kitchen this year.

I don't have 2011 mapped out completely, but I do know that I will be planning a beer, cheese, and brats tasting dinner. I'm thinking about "And the Beet Goes On..." starting with borscht and ending with a chocolate-beet cake; everything in between those courses is a mystery. And it's been awhile since I've dusted off my fondue pots. If you have any suggestions, let me know. I'm game.

So, I hope you'll stay tuned in 2011. Happy holidays!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Leftovers Bread Pudding

Jake and I were sitting at the table this morning, looking at the remainder of a cranberry panettone. He asked, "are you thinking what I'm thinking?" And we were: bread pudding.

But I didn't have enough panettone to fill the baking dish, so I added cubes of both my Guinness-gingerbread cake and my molasses boules.

To the cubed breads, I added eggs, eggnog, whipping cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, all-spice, vanilla extract and some organic sugar. I mixed until the breads were totally moistened. Then I pressed the entire mixture into a buttered baking dish and baked at 350 degrees till it was firm to the touch, about an hour.

Serve with a dollop of vanilla-scented whipped cream.

Cioppino, Ciupin, Cacciucco, or Buridda?!?

For some reason, there is a debate as to whether or not cioppino is really an Italian dish. General foodie-consensus seems to be that cioppino, as we know it here, is really an Italian-American creation that became an iconic San Franciscan dish...and has no roots in any regional Italian dishes.

I read that it could be 'cioppino' is simply an American bastardization of 'ciupin' which, in turn, was simply the truncation of the Italian zuppina, or “little soup.” But looking closer at the Genovese ciupin recipe, it relies heavily on bony fish and does not include the variety of seafood found in cioppino. A soup that is closer to cioppino might be cacciucco alla Livorno or buridda from Liguria.

But having lived, worked, and cooked in Italy, whatever you want to call it - cioppino, ciupin, cacciucco, or buridda - I think this is a quintessential Italian seafood stew. It's made with whatever seafood is readily available; the flavor combinations are all very Italian. And just as every, and I do mean every, Italian dish is made differently by each Italian cook, here's my version...
Brown minced onion, shallots, and garlic, in a large stockpot with a butter and a splash of olive oil. Add sliced fennel, a teaspoon of anise seeds, and a pinch of saffron. Cook till everything begins to soften. Add tomato paste, canned whole tomatoes, vegetable or fish stock, a dry white wine, bay leaves, dried oregano. Stir and bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Then add and cook your seafoods. For this version, I used scallops, cod, salmon, shrimp, crab, squid, clams and mussels. Once everything has cooked, stir in fresh rough-chopped basil. Some cioppino recipes call for Sambuca. I didn't have any in my cabinet, so I added a splash of Liquore Strega, a saffron liqueur.

Serve with a crusty bread. Pronto al tavolo!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Lamb Lollipops with Spiced Apple Chutney

When a friend of a friend liked one of my jewelry pieces - and I discovered that her jams and chutneys were out of this world fantastic - I bartered a trade: jewelry for chutney. I've been waiting for the perfect accompaniment for her spiced apple chutney. When I get the recipe from her, I'll share it with you. It's amazing! Spicy with a hint of sweet.

I served it tonight at our Christmas Eve dinner with a salt and pepper lamb lollipop.

Place whole peppercorns - a mixture of white, pink, and black - and Himalayan pink sea salt in a mortar and crush slightly with a pestle. Rub the mixture on a Frenched rack of lamb and let sit for at least 10 minutes before grilling. Once cooked, slice the rack into separate pieces - with the bone like a lollipop stick - and serve.

Guinness Gingerbread with Lemon Curd

Do you have flavor combinations that evoke memories from your childhood? For me, it was around the holidays, from the kitchen of my childhood friend Jessica Jenschke, née Coughran. Her mom made a gingerbread cake with a lemon curd that has stuck with me for over thirty years. I have never had her recipe, but this is my version...

At the base is my Guinness Gingerbread Cake...

Add a sprinkling of powdered sugar and a dollop of lemon curd. Et voilà!

Lemon Curd
1 C fresh lemon juice
4 t fresh lemon zest
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
12 T butter, cut into cubes

Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.


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Molasses Boules with Molasses Black-Beans

The Boules
2 dry cakes of yeast
2 C cottage cheese
4 eggs
1/4 C unsulphered molasses
2 t ground ginger
2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 C warm water
4 C white whole wheat flour
1 C chestnut flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the egg and cheese until smooth. Add melted butter, molasses, and yeast mixture. Add flour mixture slowly, beating vigorously after each addition till a stiff dough is formed. Cover dough with a cloth and let rise in a warm place for an hour or until dough is almost doubled in size. Punch down, knead for a minute, and roll into mini boules. Place on a buttered baking dish. Rub tops with molasses then sprinkle with sea salt. Cover and let rise for another 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

The Beans
Soak 1 lb of black beans overnight in water. Drain. Brown minced onions, shallots, and garlic in the bottom of a large souppot. Add chopped fennel, carrots, celery, the beans, a smoked hamhock, 2 bay leaves, steamed and peeled chestnuts (I buy mine vacuum-sealed from Trader Joe's) and cover with chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Add 1/2 C of unsulphered molasses, 1 T ground ginger, 1 t ground cinnamon, 1 t ground paprika and reduce to a simmer. Cook till the beans are tender and the broth begins to thicken. About 3 hours.

Tuesday Night Supper Club

Bûche de Noël

Every year I make a Bûche de Noël for my almost-Christmas baby's birthday. This year I went a bit non-traditional, using a marscarpone frosting for the filling instead of a coffee ganache. It was a hit, but I definitely should have made more marzipan mushrooms, acorns, leaves, and pinecones!

I use Nick Malgieri's recipe in Perfect Cakes as my starting point. You can also find his recipe on the FoodNetwork website. His chocolate genoise is, well, perfect. Actually his book is aptly named; there is not a recipe in there that I've made that hasn't turned out just divine.

Chocolate Genoise Sheet:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cake flour (spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa

Butter and line a 10" x 15" jelly-roll pan, buttered and lined with buttered parchment.

Set rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

Whisk the eggs, yolks, salt, and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, test with your finger. Then whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume.

Stir together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa. Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until well risen, deep and firm to the touch. (Make sure the cake doesn't overbake and become too dry, or it will be hard to roll.)

Use a small paring knife to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert the cake onto a rack and let the cake cool right side up on the paper. Remove the paper when the cake is cool.

The filling...
1 container of marscarpone cream, 1 brick of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, 2 C powdered sugar, a splash of almond extract. Blend all together with a hand mixer. Spread evenly over cake layer.

Cocoa Buttercream Frosting...
4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) butter, softened
To make the buttercream: Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot. Whip on medium speed until cooled. Add 1/4 C unsweetened cocoa. Beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth.

To assemble..
Turn the genoise layer over and peel away the paper. Invert onto a fresh piece of paper. Spread the layer with the marscarpone filling. Use the paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder. Frost with the buttercream and decorate with marzipan mushrooms, acorns, pinecones, and leaves.

Beer-Butt Chicken

Because I am always up for a cooking adventure, when two friends gave me a Beer-Can Chicken stand as an early Christmas present, I decided to add "Beer-Butt Chicken" to Dylan's lunch menu for his gingerbread house party. I'm still not sure if they actually thought I would use it, or if they just thought it was funny...I used it!

After reading several different versions, I decided the two most important things were: only have the can half full of beer and plug the neck hole with something.

Not having any beer in a can, I used a sparkling water can and filled it halfway with whatever beer I had on-hand. Actually I snagged a bottle from the Jake's Dragon Cabin (AKA Man-Cave) because I didn't want to use any of MY expensive ales for this experiment. I added two sprigs of fresh thyme to the can. Then I set the chicken on the rack and rubbed it with sea salt, pink pepper, ground ginger - to stay with the gingerbread theme - ground cinnamon, and paprika. Oh, and I plugged the neck hole with a small purple potato.

I baked it in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. The result: moist, beer-infused chicken. I'd call it a success.

Gingerbread Houses

When we decided to host a gingerbread house making party for Dylan's birthday, I had no inkling how much fun it would be...or how much prep would be involved. Maybe if I weren't "baking wounded" as my friend Christina put it. Rolling out batch after batch after batch of gingerbread house pieces with a broken rib was more than a little painful, especially considering that most of the kids completely covered the house in frosting and candies. So we could have made the structure out of cardboard! But the scent of baking gingerbread says Christmas to me, so it was all worth it.

The basic dough...
Ingredients 

  • 1 C butter 
  • 1 C organic dark brown sugar 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2/3 C organic unsulphured molasses 
  • 6 C white whole wheat flour 
  • 1 C chestnur flour 
  • 2 T baking powder 
  • 1 T ground ginger


Procedure Melt the butter and whisk in the molasses, sugar, and eggs. Add dry ingredients and blend till you have a stiff dough. Split dough into quarters and roll into a ball. Wrap tightly with plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll dough to desired thickness (I kept them fairly thick to withstand little hands) and cut out your pieces. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, depending on thickness.

Get creative with your decorations. Here are some of ours from the party...


 



And here is my husband's 10-hour creation, complete with lights, beveled edges, and stained glass windows. I was simultaneously impressed, annoyed, and intimidated. Wow. That's all I can say.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Guinness Gingerbread Cake

So when I checked my voicemail coming out of the movie theatre yesterday, Jenn - who was responsible for launching me down the path toward a dinner made entirely with eggplant - had left me a message about Nigella Lawson's Guinness gingerbread recipe. Guinness plus gingerbread. Oh, yea, baby!

When I finally looked up her recipe on the Food Network website, I was disappointed to discover that she didn't use molasses...or crystallized ginger. But I did like her use of sour cream. So, I combined parts of her recipe with parts of my own gingerbread recipes to come up with this delectable treat.

This makes two 10"x13" rectangular cakes. Cut it in half, if needed.

2-1/2 sticks butter, plus some for greasing
2 C unsulphered molasses
2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 bottle of Guinness
4 t ground ginger
4 t ground cinnamon
2 t ground nutmeg
2 t ground allspice
1/2 t ground cloves
1 C chestnut flour
3 C white whole wheat flour
2 T baking powder
2 C sour cream
4 eggs
2 T crystallized ginger

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt the butter completely. Stir in molasses, brown sugar, Guinness, eggs, and sour cream. Add in dry ingredients and stir till completely moistened. Stir in crystallized ginger and pour into buttered cake pans. Bake for 1 hour or till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Served with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Triple Ginger Loaf

Inspired by some candied ginger biscotti that Jake brought home, I decided to make an ultra-gingery treat.

1/2 C butter
1/4 C organic granulated sugar
1 C chestnut flour
2 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
2 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t all-spice
1 egg
1 C hot water
1/2 C unsulfured molasses
1/2 ginger syrup

Cream sugar and butter, add dry ingredients, add egg, molasses, ginger syrup and water, stir until completely moistened. Pour into mini loaf pans and press crystallized ginger into the top of the loaves.

Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes.

I like my gingerbread dense and almost pudding-like. If you like a lighter, more cake-like, gingerbread. Add 1-1/2 t of baking powder to this recipe.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon-Marscarpone Frosting

If you frost a muffin, it transforms into a cupcake, right?

1/2 C butter
1/4 C organic granulated sugar
3 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
2 t ground ginger
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 t all-spice
1 egg
1 C hot water
1 C unsulfured molasses
1 1/2 t of baking powder

Cream sugar and butter, add dry ingredients, add egg, molasses and water, stir until completely moistened. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Frosting: 1 container of marscarpone cream, 1 brick of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter, 2 C powdered sugar, freshly squeezed juice from one small lemon. Blend all together with a hand mixer. Spread evenly over muffin.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mint Tea Shortbreads

10 T butter
1/2 C packed organic brown sugar
2 T loose leaf mint tea
1 egg, beaten
1-3/4 C white whole wheat flour
granulated sugar and more loose leaf mint tea

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in tea leaves until well combined. Beat in the egg, then carefully fold in the flour.

Roll the dough into a long cylinder. Flatten the cylinder into a rectangular shape, pressing granulated sugar and more mint leaves into the sides. Put the dough in plastic wrap and chill for about an hour, until the dough is firm enough to slice.

Using a sharp knife, cut the dough cylinder widthwise into 1/4" slices and place, slightly apart, on the baking sheets. Bake for 15-18 minutes until slightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Spiced Chestnut Biscotti

2/3 cup chestnut flour
1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1 cup packed organic brown sugar
6 tablespoons organic granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2/3 cup coarsely chopped dark chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla extract. In another bowl, combine flours, baking powder, and spices; mix into egg mixture to form a stiff dough. Mix in chocolate pieces and chopped pecans.

Divide dough in half, and shape each half into a roll the length of the cookie sheet. Place rolls on cookie sheet, and pat down to flatten the dough to 1/2 inch thickness.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325.When cool enough to touch, cut into thin diagonal slices. Place sliced biscotti on cookie sheet, and bake an additional 10 minutes on each side, or until toasted and crispy.
Serve with a strong cup of Italian caffé.


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Also shared on Amy's Culinary Smackdown Battle - Cookies @ uTry.it

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