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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: November 2011

Rosemary and Black Pepper Dinner Rolls

Rosemary & Black Pepper Dinner Rolls

Homemade bread is second only to ice cream on my list of “Things I’m so Glad I Can Make at Home.” Seriously, there’s not much that beats the smell of homemade bread. Because we’re moving soon (by the way, we bought a house!), I haven’t been baking nearly as much as I would like. Thankfully, our friends Katy and Juli gave us a good reason to bake when they hosted Friendsgiving a couple weekends ago. Thanksgiving may be over, but I don’t need a holiday to make these again. In fact, the rolls are so delicious that they do a good job of making even ordinary meals seem special.

These rolls embody everything a dinner roll should be – soft, fluffy and insanely tasty. There’s just enough rosemary and pepper in them to give them something extra. I love rosemary, but I know it can be overpowering in certain things. Not so with these. They’re herby in a subtle way, and they go so well with just about everything. Eric made a double batch of these for the party, and we lucked out with a couple left over that we used for sandwiches. Honestly, it’s worth making them just for that. We make dinner rolls of some sort every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I’m glad to have another recipe to add to the rotation. Even better for us, since we’re always traveling during the holidays, is that these can be made in advance and frozen before the final rise. Homemade dinner rolls that we can make ahead of time? Huge win.

Rosemary & Black Pepper Dinner Rolls

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From Scratch Green Bean Casserole

From Scratch Green Bean Casserole
This post has been a long time coming. I first made this green bean casserole three years ago while visiting family for Thanksgiving. I distinctly remember enlisting Eric’s little brother to help us clean mushrooms for the cream of mushroom soup. We decided to make a double batch of this since there were so many of us, which meant we had a ton of mushrooms to wipe clean. Sadly, he’s almost 16 now and is not so easily persuaded to help in the kitchen. We won’t be seeing any family at Thanksgiving this year, but we couldn’t let the season pass without making this again. We had the opportunity to make it for a Thanksgiving potluck at our friends’ house last weekend. I was so excited when one of our friends asked if this was the same one we made for our Friendsgiving party last year. To have a memorable dish always means a lot to us, especially when it’s something as unmemorable as a casserole.

What makes this dish so memorable? It’s the fact that it’s not made with any cream of questionable ingredients, and instead uses a homemade cream of mushroom soup as the base. The fresh, crisp-tender green beans and crunchy topping don’t hurt, either. Our families tend to think of Eric and I as kind of food elitists, and I remember some jesting remarks being made about us while we were prepping this dish. Those quickly ceased once everyone tried this casserole, though. I’ve made it another way since then, using fried shallots in place of the canned fried onions and breadcrumb topping in this recipe. Eric and I made the two versions back to back, and this version barely won out. In the future, I’d like to try a version that uses both the fried shallots and the breadcrumb topping to make this a completely can free green bean casserole. Until then, this one is still infinitely better than any other version I ever had growing up.

From Scratch Green Bean Casserole

From Scratch Green Bean Casserole
Serves 10-12

*To make this ahead of time (because Thanksgiving Day can be so crazy), make the breadcrumbs ahead of time, store in the refrigerator and combine with the onions right before baking. The beans and cooled sauce can be combined in a baking dish and stored, covered, up to 24 hours before serving. To heat, simply remove the cover and bake at 425º for 10 minutes and continue baking as directed. You can easily halve this recipe and bake it in an 8-inch square (2 quart) baking dish. Reduce the cooking time in step 3 to 6 minutes (1 3/4 cups) and the baking time in step 4 to 10 minutes.

For the Topping:
4 slices white sandwich bread, each slice torn into quarters
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups canned fried onions (about 6 ounces)

For the Beans and Sauce:
2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed, halved
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound white button mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped clean, and broken into 1/2-inch pieces
3 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
Ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the bread, butter, salt and pepper until coarse crumbs form, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the onions; set aside.

Preheat oven to 425º. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice water and place it near the stove. In a large Dutch oven, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and beans. Cook for about 6 minutes, until the beans are bright green and crisp-tender. Drain the beans and dunk them into the water to stop cooking. Remove from the ice bath and place onto a paper towel lined baking sheet to drain completely.

Add butter to Dutch oven and melt over medium high heat. Once foaming has subsided, add mushrooms, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Cook for about 6 minutes, or until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the liquid has evaporated. Stirring constantly, sprinkle in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Stir in broth and, still stirring constantly, bring to a simmer. Add cream, reduce heat to medium, and continue simmering about 12 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to 3 1/2 cups. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Place green beans back into the Dutch oven and stir to evenly coat them with sauce. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch (3 quart) baking dish. Evenly spread topping over the beans and bake for about 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Serve immediately.

Source: The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook

Opera Cake for Amy’s Virtual Shower

Opera Cake

My friend Amy is expecting a baby girl early next year, and I was thrilled when I was asked to participate in her virtual shower. I’m so excited to be able to take part in it, especially since Amy and I are due close together and are both having girls. If you don’t know Amy, she is a professional opera singer (and her blog name, Sing for Your Supper, comes from a musical). So when Kelsey, our lovely hostess, asked what I’d be making, it only took me a second to decide on opera cake. It’s a dessert I’ve wanted to make for quite some time, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting occasion.

The first and only opera cake I had prior to making this one came from the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. I was hooked as soon as a tried it, so it was only a matter of time before I decided to make one myself. Eric described this cake as “French tiramisu,” and I think that’s an accurate description. This dessert is made up of a three layers of almond sponge cake that have been moistened with an espresso syrup. Atop the first layer of cake is an espresso infused Italian meringue buttercream, and chocolate ganache is sandwiched between the second and third layers. The whole cake is topped with chocolate glaze. Once the glaze sets, the edges of the cake are removed to display its beautiful layers. This cake is a chocolate and coffee lover’s dream. It’s decadent in flavor but light in texture. I didn’t hesitate to eat the piece from this photo as soon as I was done shooting it.

Though this dessert does take quite a while to make, it’s easily broken down into steps. Each component of the cake can be made in advance, as can the cake itself. It’s a ten inch cake, and the recipe cannot be reduced. If you need less, simply make the full recipe, then cut it into smaller cakes to freeze. It can be kept in the freezer, well wrapped, for up to a month and defrosted in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Make sure to check out Amy’s and Kelsey’s blogs for the full roundup of all the sweet shower recipes.

Opera Cake

Opera Cake
Makes one 10-inch cake

For the cake:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups ground blanched almonds
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled briefly, plus additional for pan prep

For the espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso

For the coffee buttercream:
2 tablespoons instant espresso
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the chocolate ganache:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the chocolate glaze:
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Start by making the cake. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line two 12 1/2x 15 1/2-inch jelly roll pans with parchment and brush with melted butter. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat in the granulated sugar and continue beating until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Gently scrape into a medium bowl and set aside.

Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Beat the ground almonds, confectioners sugar and whole eggs on medium speed until light and airy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually mix in flour, mixing just until incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the meringue, then the melted butter. Divide the batter evenly among the two pans (I think it was about 600 grams of batter per pan) and spread to cover the entire surface.

Bake cakes for 5 to 7 minutes, until light brown and springy to the touch. Place a sheet of parchment over each pan, then carefully turn the cakes over to unmold. Carefully peel off the layer of parchment on the bottom, turn it over and use it to cover the cakes. Let cool to room temperature. Cakes can be made up to 1 day in advance, cooled, wrapped and stored at room temperature.

While the cakes are cooling, prepare the espresso syrup by combining all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and set aside to cool. The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

To make the buttercream, dissolve the espresso in the boiling water and set aside. Beat the egg and egg yolk on medium-high speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until pale and foamy. Bring the sugar, water and vanilla bean paste to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir only until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 255ºF. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in the syrup. Don’t be concerned if some of it sticks to the sides of the bowl. Increase speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick, satiny and room temperature, about 5 minutes.

With the mixer on medium speed, steadily add the butter in 2-tablespoon increments. Once all the butter has been added, increase speed to high and beat until the buttercream has thickened slightly. Beat in the dissolved espresso. Chill, stirring frequently, until the buttercream is firm enough to be spread, at least 30 minutes. If making ahead of time, the buttercream can be refrigerated for 4 days or frozen up to a month. Bring to room temperature before using and beat to smooth it.

To make the ganache, place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the milk and cream to a boil, then pour over the chocolate. Wait 1 minute, then stir until smooth and glossy. Add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, and continue stirring until the ganache is smooth. Refrigerate, stirring every 5 minutes, until the ganache thickens to a spreadable consistency, about 20 minutes. The ganache can be refrigerated 3 days or frozen up to a month. Bring to room temperature before using.

To assemble the cake, line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Working with one cake a time, cut each cake into one 10×10-inch square and one 10×5-inch rectangle. Place one square of cake on the parchment and use a pastry brush to moisten with the espresso syrup. Spread about 3/4 of the buttercream onto the cake, making sure to spread evenly. If the buttercream is too soft, you can freeze the cake for about 10 minutes before proceeding. Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten with the syrup and top with ganache, making sure to spread it in an even layer. Top with the remaining cake layer, moisten, then freeze for 10 minutes. Top with a thin layer of buttercream. This is just to smooth the top and prepare it for the glaze, so less is more here. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 6. If you’re in a hurry, you can freeze the cake for 20 minutes before continuing.

When you’re ready to glaze the cake, bring the butter to boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and skim off the top foam to clarify the butter. Pour the clear yellow butter into a small bowl and discard any milky residue. Melt the chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water, then stir in the clarified butter. Lift the chilled cake off the parchment lined pan and place on a rack set atop the parchment lined pan. Pour the glaze over the cake, using a long offset spatula to help smooth it evenly across the top. Though messy, I would recommend transferring the cake to a cake stand or serving dish now, so that the set glaze doesn’t crack when you lift the cake later on. Refrigerate until glaze is set and cake is chilled. Use a long, thin knife that has been dipped in very hot water and wiped dry to cut the sides of the cake, removing any drips from the glaze and exposing the layers. A hot knife works best to slice this cake, which should be served slightly chilled.

Source: As seen on The Splendid Table, originally from Paris Sweets: Great Desserts From the City’s Best Pastry Shops

Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

I spent the better part of last weekend in a scarf and pea coat. I have no idea what happened to fall, but it got really cold here out of nowhere. For me, that means one thing – soup, and lots of it. I remember when Eric and I still lived in Orlando and we rarely made soup. It was a big deal for us to get soup weather down there, but now we make it all the time. I was somewhat hesitant to suggest this soup to Eric, only because I wasn’t sure how he’d feel about cauliflower being the main ingredient. He doesn’t hate it, but it’s certainly not his favorite vegetable. Thankfully, he was all for giving it a try.

Please don’t run away from this post because you think you don’t like cauliflower. It tastes completely different when it’s used in a soup like this. Plus, it’s roasted before being added to the soup, which gives it so much more flavor. Not to mention, there’s an entire head of roasted garlic in this too, and it’s hard to beat anything made with that much garlic. This soup is reminiscent of a velvety, rich potato soup, in both texture and flavor. In fact, I think you would be hard pressed to identify the cauliflower in this soup if you didn’t know it was there. This soup is earthy, hearty and perfect for a chilly night.

I tend to like my soups with some texture and not perfectly smooth. As such, I used an immersion blender to blend this to the consistency I wanted. You can certainly use a blender to get that incredibly smooth texture if you want. To make this vegetarian, simply omit the bacon and substitute 1 tablespoon of butter or oil for the bacon grease.

Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Soup
Serves 4-6

1 whole head cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large whole head garlic
3 ounces bacon
1 1/2 stalks celery, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, plus up to 2 more as needed for desired consistency
1 dried bay leaf
2 teaspoons fresh minced parsley
1/3 cup half and half
Olive oil or white truffle oil, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Cut cauliflower into florets and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Cut off the top of the head of the garlic and place on a sheet of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly. Place on baking sheet with cauliflower. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden and tender. Continue roasting garlic an additional 5-10 minutes, or until caramelized and fragrant. Once garlic is cool, press out of skins and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Once crisp, remove to a paper towel lined plate. Let cool and crumble. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of bacon grease and return to heat. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the spices and flour and continue cooking for 2 minutes.

Whisk in the wine and water, making sure to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pot. Add the broth, bay leaf and garlic. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower and continue cooking 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf. Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender until your desired consistency is reached. Add additional broth as needed. Return to pot and set over medium-low heat. Stir in half and half and parsley and cook until warmed through. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a drizzle of olive or white truffle oil, if desired, and top with the crumbled bacon.

Source: Adapted from GoodLife Eats

Fried Herbed Almonds

Pan Fried Almonds with Thyme

Thanksgiving is approaching faster than we know it, so I’m going to start sharing some of my tried and true holiday favorites. Appetizers are often the last thing people think of when it comes to holiday entertaining, but they’re actually an integral part of the meal. I like having them available so everyone has a snack to enjoy while waiting on the main attraction. This is especially helpful in case your turkey isn’t done when it should be or you need additional time to make the finishing touches on your sides.

When Eric and I hosted our Friendsgiving party last year, these almonds were the first thing to disappear (and that’s not just because they were the first thing served). The beauty of these is in their simplicity. Crunchy almonds flecked with thyme, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. That’s it. They’re easy to snack on while drinking a glass of wine, and they pair wonderfully with a variety of cheeses (we served ours with Capricho de Cabra). Because they can be made ahead of time, they’re a great item to have on your holiday menu. Just be careful if you make them too far in advance because they might disappear before Thanksgiving arrives.

Pan Fried Almonds with Thyme Get the recipe »