Tomato -Parmesan toast


Growing up in the heart of the Mediterrean was just so remarkable. Every afternoon the farmers would drive around their produce for the day and sell fresh fruits and vegetables right out of their trucks. The tomatoes are just so juicy and sweet,you are reminded they are a fruit,but I digress. This “toast” really bruchetta is served at Piero’s in Burbank CA. It combines every element I love, garlic,tomatoes, olive oil,parmesan cheese and bread. It makes a super appetizer or light lunch.

 

Serves 4

1 head garlic,cloves seperated,peeled

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 half inch thick baguette slices,1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese 1tablespoon dried oregano

2 tomatoes cut into 1/4 slices

Preheat oven to 350*. Combine garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor. Process till smooth.Transfer mixture to bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Arrange bread on baking sheet. Brush on some of the garlic mixture.Top with tomato slice,season with salt. Brush each tomato slice with garlic mixture. Mix cheese and oregano in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon cheese mixture over each bread slice.

Bake until cheese melts and bread is golden brown,about 20 minutes. SERVE

Fresh fruit Kababs with creamy Grand Marnier Sauce


I love to entertain . A special rule for me is mingling and enjoying myself with my guests,so I prepare as much as possible ahead of time. I also love serving fresh fruit,in season, along with other desserts. I found this recipe  by Le Ann Dreier and have used it since. Unlike Zabalione,it can be prepared ahead of time and refridgerated.

Serves 8

8 cups assorted fresh fruit such as,grapes,raspberries,strawberries,blueberries,mangoes,melons ,pineapples, all cut into bite sized pieces and skewered on to small fancy tooth picks.

SAUCE

10 oz cream cheese,room temperature

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons powdered sugar

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons (or more) Grand Marnier .

Combine all ingredients for sauce in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust Grand Marnier ,as desired. Refridgerate till cold,at least 1 hour. (may be prepared a day ahead).

Fan Fruit Kebabs on an attractive platter. Place sauce in a serving bowl on the side,allow your guests to help themselves.

Coco Pazzo Panna Cotta with Caramel Sauce


Coco Pazzo is an elegant Italian restaurant in NYC and Chicago(ones I have visited). I was fortunate to be able to find a recipe for their sublime Panna Cotta with caramel sauce. I love it for entertaining as it is simple to make and can be made ahead of time in individual servings.

Serves 6

CARAMEL SAUCE

1 cup sugar

1 cup (or more)water

PUDDING

2 tablespoons water

4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

5 cups whipping cream

1 cup milk

1 cup powdered sugar

1 vanilla bean,split lengthwise

FOR SAUCE: Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup turns amber,occassionally  swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush,about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Carefully add 1/2 cup water (mixture will splatter) .Return pan to heat and bring to boil,stirring to dissolve any caramel bits,about 2 minutes. Cool. Cover and refridgerate.

FOR PUDDING: Pour 2 tablespoons water into small bowl. Sprinkle with gelatin. Let stand until softened,about 10 minutes. Mix cream ,milk and sugar in heavy large saucepan. Scrape in seeds from;add bean. Bring to boil,stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add gelatin mixture and stir to dissolve. Remove vanilla bean,transfer mixture to bowl. Place bowl over larger bowl of ice water. Let stand just until cool,stirring occassionally,about 30 minutes. Divide pudding equally among six 10 oz custard cups. Cover and refridgerate overnight.

Unmold puddings onto plates. Drizzle with caramel sauce and serve.

Buckingham Palace Shortbread


Shortbread is a simple pleasure I cannot resist,it’s delicious with tea,great as a gift and the aromas wafting from the kitchen while baking make everything feel warm,fuzzy and comfortable. I discovered this recipe in a book by Sara Perry,where she claims this very recipe is prepared for the Queen’s afternoon tea.

2 cups cake flour

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter,at room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

up to 1/4 cup superfine sugar for sprinkling  (or granulated sugar whirled in a blender until fine,about 20 seconds)

In a medium bowl,whisk together the flour,cornstarch,and salt until well blended.

In a stand mixer set on medium speed,beat the butter until creamy. Beat in the granulated sugar until light and fluffy,about 2 minutes,scraping down the sides and bottom of bowl as neccessary. On low speed,add flour mixture in 2 to 3 additions until it forms a soft dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven for 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or leave ungreased.

On a lightly floured surface,roll the dough out to 3/4 inch   thick slab,about 5 by 8 inches. transfer to the baking sheet and bake until lightly golden and firm to the touch,about 40 minutes. Slip the parchment with the shortbread onto a hard surface,immediately sprinkle the shortbread with the superfine sugar. While still warm ,use the ruler and a paring knife ,pointed straight down,to cut the shortbread into 1 or to 11/2 inch pieces. Let cool completly. The shortbread tastes best at room temperature.

Mum’s best Cherry Honey buns


The fonest memory I have of my mum is of her in the kitchen. She was an accomplished cook and singer. But,most of all she was a loving,practical woman. She used to prepare these unbelievably easy, simple cupcakes for my sweet sister,Sonya,who simply adored them. She would sit in a chair close to mum ,while my mother would prepare the batter,all the while singing to my little sister…then the real fun began of stealing the batter. I have no idea where this recipe originated but do not let its simplicity fool you,they are great.

6 oz SELF RAISING flour

11/2 teaspoons (level) baking powder

6 oz room temperature butter

4 oz superfine sugar

3 oz glace cherries,quartered

3 eggs,beaten

Pinch salt

2 level tablespoons Honey + more for brushing cupcake tops

Sift flour and baking powder. Stir in salt. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir well with a wooden spoon or hand held mixer. Spoon into paper lined muffin pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes . Check for doneness with a tooth pick.

Cool on wire rack. When cool brush tops with Honey and ,if desired a few blanched,slivered almonds and a cherry.

Hot and Spicy Hawker noodles


Noodles are a staple food in China, anytime, breakfast,lunch or dinner. This spicy version,often sold by strret hawkers originated in Sichuan.

Courtsey The food of China

1 lb fresh wheat-flour noodles or  3/4  lb narrow flat dried noodles

1 teaspoon cooking oil

8 oz lean pork,very finely minced

1/2 cup preserved salted radish,finely chopped

2 cups chicken stock

4 tablespoons black soy sauce

1  1/2  tablespoons black rice vinegar

1 tablespoon very finely chopped garlic  2 teaspoons peanut oil+  1/4  teaspoon sichuan pepper

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon chili oil

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 heaped tablespoon finely sliced spring onion

Set the noodles aside for blanching later.

Heat cooking oil and stir fry the pork over very high heat for 2-3 minutes,until cooked. Mix well with preserved radish and set aside.

Heat chicken stock and add all other ingredients except noodles and spring onions. Keep stock warm while blanching noodles in rapidly boiling water for 1 minute.

Drain noodles and divide among 4 small bowls. Pour over hot stock,top with pork mixture,garnish with spring onion and serve.

Brutti ma Buoni,ugly but good hazelnut cookies


Years ago I was on a tour of Italy with friends and my very best friend Fiona. we were in the Val d’aosta in Italy. On our last evening there we stopped by a bakery and picked up cookies. Back in our hotel Fiona proceeded to eat her cookies,Brutti ma Buoni,and went on and on about how delicious these cookies were,she mused on the strangeness of their name,but,my ususally generous friend refused to offer me any;till just scraps remained and…now she was generous. Suffice it to say they were divine. I have searched and found sereral recipes but none that come as close to the ones we shared in Italy , these from Nick Malgieri.

4 large egg whites

pinch salt

11/3 cup sugar

31/2 cups (about 14 oz) whole hazelnuts,finely ground in a food processor

2 cookie sheets lined with parchment or foil

Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees

Whip the egg whites and salt in an electric mixer with the whisk on medium speed until they are white and opaque and beginning to hold their shape. Increase the speed to medium high and whip in the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time,continuing to whip the whites until they hold a firm peak. remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the ground hazlenuts.

Scrape the batter into a medium saucepan and place over low heat. Cook,stirring constantly with a wooden spoon,until the mixture is heated through,about 8 minutes.

Use 2 spoons to form 3/4 inch cookies. Use one spoon to scoop up some batter and the other to scrape it off the first,rounding it somewhat as you do,and drop the cookies onto the prepared pan,spacing them about 1 inch apart from each other in all directions.

Bake the cookies until they are well colored and slightly firm, about 20 -25 minutes.

Cool the cookies on the pan on a rack.

Makes about 60 cookies.