Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese and Orange -Fennel seed Vinaigrette


Salads are great any time of year, especially with the availability of pre washed salad mixes, just be sure the salad is really fresh with no rotten leaves, which can spoil your whole salad. The combination here of fresh orange segments and goat cheese with a light vinaigreete makes it perfect as an accompiniment to an entree or as a light lunch.

Serves 6

 8 oz mixed greens , washed and spun dry

2 large navel oranges ,rinsed

1 tbs white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds ,coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I USE MONINI , FRUTTATO)

1/4 lb creamy goat cheese

Put greens in a large salad bowl .Finely grate the zest of 1 orange and put it in a small bowl.

Slice ends of both oranges with a small ,sharp knife. Stand the fruit on one of its cut endsand slice off the skin in strips. . Working over a medium bowl , cut the segments free from the membrane, letting each segment fall into the bowl as you go. Remove any seeds from the segments. Squeeze the membranes to extract the juice ,you will need 3 tbs juice for the vinaigrette.

Add the juice to the bowl with the zest , vinigar and fennel seeds. Season with 1/2 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper to taste.

Add the orange segments to the bowl of mixed greens. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss. Crumble half of the goat cheese over the top and toss again to mix.

Portion the salad among 6 salad plates and crumble the remaining cheese over the salads. Serve.

Spiced Mixed Nuts


Nuts are always a welcome addition with drinks, I especially love Cashews and almonds. Really any mix of nuts will do with the exception of Brazilnuts , as they have a high fat content making the coating slide off them. Go ahead ,impress your guests with these spicy nuts ,I am sure you’ll love having them on hand.

Yield 4 cups

1 lb  (4 cups ) mixed unsalted nuts , such as Cashews ,Macadamias , Walnuts ,pecans or almonds . (I LOVE TO ADD UNSALTED PISTACHIOS IN THEIR SHELLS )

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tbs unsalted butter

2 tbs dark brown sugar

2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350*F. Scatter the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake, shaking the sheet a couple of times during baking,until the nuts are nicely toasted, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile ,set a small heavy skillet over medium high heat. Sprinkle in the coriander and cumin and toast till aromatic, about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from heat and add the butter, brown sugar ,Rosemary and cayenne. return skillet to heat and stir until the butter melts and sugar dissolves, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Keep warm.

Tip the nuts into a large WARM bowl  (this will help the spice butter coat the nuts evenly) , pour the spiced butter over the nuts , stir until nuts are well coated and taste to adjust seasoning.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

FINE COOKING

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with dried cherries and pecans(eggless)


These festive cookies are great for every holiday or everyday. This stands true for Christmas through to Valentine’s day. I love the different textures from the dried cherries and pecans coupled with the pure intensity of the chocolate from the cocoa powder ,if that is not enough the recipe calls for chocolate chunks . Chocolate purists can use any type of chocolate ,but my tastes go towards Semi sweet.

Fine Cooking

60 to 65 cookies

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

   10 oz (2  1/4 cups) all purpose flour

3  1/2 oz (1 cup plus 2 tbs) unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1  2/3  cups granulated sugar

pinch salt

pinch baking powder

10  1/2 oz (1 cup plus 5 tbs ) room temperature unsalted butter

4  1/2 tbs whole milk

1  1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup toasted and coarsely chopped pecans

1  1/2 cups bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks

1  1/2 cups dried tart cherries , coarsely chopped

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350*F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.

In a food processor combine flour ,cocoa ,sugar, salt and baking soda. Pulse several times to mix throughly. Cut butter into about about 12 chunks and add them to the bowl. Pulse several times. Combine the milk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running add the milk mixture and continue to process until the dough clumps around the blade.

Remove to a mixing bowl and add in the pecans ,chocolate and dried cherries . Gently fold these into the dough.

Drop ,more or less level tablespoons onto the parchment  2 inches apart. (I USE THE BACK OF A DRINKING GLASS <DIPPED IN SUGAR TO GENTLY FLATTEN THE COOKIE)

Bake ,rotating the sheet half way through, until the surface looks dry and set ,about 12 minutes.

Slide cookies on to a wire rack and allow them to cool completely before storing in an air tight container.

I freeze my cookies in single layers seperated by wax paper.

Classic Creme Brulee


Creme Brulee is a simple dessert to make. Most importantly , you must start with fresh ingredients , as the ingredient list is simple , thus using the best ingredients will yield a great product. This recipe from David Rosengarten is the very best I have tried. He suggests using vanilla bean ,if that is not available substitute with 2 tsps of pure vanilla extract.

Serves 6

Photograph by Rahul Mahtani

4 cups Heavy cream

2 vanilla beans or vanilla extract

2 strips lemon zest

8 large (NOT EXTRA LARGE ) egg yolks

pinch of salt

3/4 cup granulated white sugar ,plus 6 tbs for topping

Preheat oven to 300*F

Put the cream in a saucepan ,and scrape the vanilla bean seeds into into it with the tip of a knife (if using extract ,do not add now). Ad the scraped out vanilla pods and the lemon zest. Bring to just under a boil, allow to rest at a slight simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cover pot for 15 minutes..

In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks ,salt and sugar.Whisk till egg yolks are lighter and slightly thicker in texture.

Remove the vanilla pods from the cream , warm it until it is almost simmering , whisk the cream into the egg mixture ,whisking continously , until the mixture is well blended. If using extract ,stir it in now.

Strain thecustard into a pitcher with a pouring spout.

Choose 6  six ounce creme brulee dishes , preferably wide and flat and divide the mixture evenly between them., place the dishes in a roasting pan and add enough simmering water to come up half way up the sides of the dishes.

Place in the preheated oven and bake until the custard is just set but still jiggles slightly in the center. ( this can take anywhere from 40 minutes ,for looser custard ,60 minutes for very firm.)

Remove dishes from pan and allow them to cool to room temperature. (I REFRIDGERATE AT THIS POINT ,COVER THE CUSTARDS WELL WITH PLASTIC WRAP)

Bring to room temperature before serving ,sprinkle thinly with 1 tbs of sugar and broil for 30 to 40 seconds. I use a small propane torch ,it works best and is easily available from many cooking stores.

Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.

Chicken Wontons


Years ago I was part of a cooking club where I had the good fortune to learn from some of the best home cooks who had the privilage of coming from exotic ,intresting contries. This recipe came from one of the group members are has an Indo Chinese flavor. They are spicy ,crisp and just clean tasting ,unlike frozen ones found in many Asian supermarkets. I double the recipe and place one batch in the freezer.

1/2 lb ground chicken (I use the breast)

1 small beaten egg

1 stalk celery ,finely chopped

salt and ground white pepper

2 chopped green chilles (or to taste)

2 tbs  Chopped corriander leaves

Wonton wrappers (DO NOT BUY THE EXTRA THIN)

1 egg beaten ,for sealing the wontons

Oil for deep frying.

Mix the beaten egg ,celery , chillis, corriander ,salt ,pepper and chicken well. If the mixture is too soft ,refridgerate a while.

Take a wrapper , place it on an angle , put a small amount of filling at the corner. Using a brush ,brush all sides with beaten egg. Roll the clear half over ,forming a triangle and press to seal. Flip the edges around and seal with some beaten egg.

Place on a wire rack or wax paper while you complete making all of them.

Deep fry immediately or freeze by place ,not touching on a cookie sheet.Place ,uncovered , in a deep freezer. When frozen place in a freezer bag and back into the freezer.

Snowballs


When the holidays roll around and the snow starts falling I am reminded of these deicious , melt in your mouth ,cookies from Carole Walter . I think I have often mentioned my great admiration for her teaching skills and recipe precision. These cookies rolled twice in powdered sugar ,air dried and last about 3 weeks stored in an airtight container ,making them ideal for gift giving ,shipping or just a treat to have on hand.

Makes 32   1  1/2 inch cookies

1  1/4 cups pecans

2 cups all purpose flour ,divided , spooned in and leveled

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter ,at room temperature

2 tbs strained confectioners’ sugar

1 tbs cold water

2 tsp pure vanilla

1  1/2 cups strained confectioners’ sugar spooned in and leveled ,for coating

MAKE THE DOUGH

Place the pecans and 1/4 cup of the flour in a bowl of a food of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 5 or 6 times, then process 8 to 10 seconds or until the pecans are chopped medium fine. Add the remaining 1  1/4 cups flour and the salt and pulse 2 or 3 times ,just to combine.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment ,mix the on medium low speed until creamy and lightened in color. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the 2 tbs confectioners’ sugar., 1 tbs cold water ,and the vanillaand continue to mix on low speed, scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the flour nut mixture in three additions ,mixing JUST until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. Remove the bowl from the mixer ,cover with plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

BAKE THE COOKIES

Position the shelves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Heat the oven to 325*F. Line the pans with parchment.

Form the dough into 1  1/4 inch balls and set about 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes or just until cookies begin to brown lightly on the bottom. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes, then carefully loosen with a thin metal spatula.

SUGAR THE COOKIES

Place the 1  1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar in a large ,shallow dish, while the cookies are still warm.,roll in the sugar ,coating each heavily. Handle gently; they are very fragile. When the first coating of sugar is complete, roll the cookies a second time. Place on wire cooling racks and let air dry for several hours.

STORAGE

Store in an airtight containerlayered in between strips of wax paper for up to 3 weeks. These cookies maybe frozen.

Smoked Salmon and dill Marscapone Toasts


Marscapone has a slightly sweet taste making it an ideal paring with the smokiness of the Salmon. I love the freshness of the dill and the anise flavor of the fennel. Be sure to slice the fennel super thin ,so it is not competing with the salmon . I loved to serve these along with High tea or even an elegant get together, they look beautiful placed on a silver serving tray. I have even prepared these as miniture sandwiches, they taste great and look elegant.

Source Fine Cookin

Yields 16

 

8 oz marscapone cheese

2 tbs chopped fresh dill plus 16 small fronds for garnish

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 medium fennel bulb ,thinly sliced

16 toast points

4 oz sliced cold -smoked salmon, cut into 16 even pieces

Mix the marscapone ,dill , 1 tsp lemon zest , and 2 tsp lemon juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and check for seasonings . Season the sliced fennel with salt. At this point you may refridgerate till ready to assemble.

To assemble ,spread toasts with some of the marscapone and then cut each toast into 4 even squares. Top each square with a couple pieces of fennel , a curl of salmon ,a dill frond, and a few grinds of black pepper