The clumsy dance of the colours and patterns of life

Witness the clumsy dance of the colours and patterns of life, the sometimes-harmonic, sometimes-cacophonic combination of the silence and the noise all around, and the heroes and the helpless within.
Welcome to my little corner of The Mighty Interwebs, where it is not likely you will find anything profound (or even very interesting), but where you will find all manner of random. Life is a kaleidoscope of the weird and the wonderful, the awesome and the awful, the blessings and the bizarre, and the collision between them is what you just might stumble upon here if you stick around. Grab your favorite drink and come hang out with me if you dare.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin filled Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce


Cream puffs:
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup flour
3 eggs

Pumpkin Mousse:
1 cup whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup canned pumpkin

Maple-Caramel Sauce:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/3 cup half and half or light cream
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

Cream Puffs:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. In medium saucepan combine water, butter, sugar, salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the side of the pan. Remove from heat, cool for 10 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Drop 8 heaping tablespoons of dough 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Transfer cream puffs to a wire rack, let cool. Using a serrated knife, cut each cream puff in half horizontally, remove soft dough from inside. Fill cream puffs with Pumpkin Mousse, replace tops. Spoon some of the warm Maple-Caramel Sauce onto 8 dessert plates, sprinkle with toasted pecans. Place a filled cream puff on top of sauce on each plate, drizzle each cream puff with remaining sauce and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Pumpkin Mousse:
In a chilled large mixing bowl, mix whipping cream, sugar, spices with chilled beaters of electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Fold in canned pumpkin. Cover and chill for up to 4 hours.

Maple-Caramel Sauce:
In small heavy saucepan, stir together brown sugar and cornstarch, stir in cream, water, maple syrup, butter. Cook over medium heat until slightly thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. (Mixture may appear curdled before it bubbles.) Cook and stir for two minutes more. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Serve warm.

To make ahead: Prepare as above through baking cream puffs. Layer between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container. Cover and chill for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Strawberry Basil Martini

I had one of these last night. At first, I wasn't sure how the basil would work with the strawberries, but it is darn fine! :-)

3 fresh strawberries, cored and sliced
3 basil leaves
Splash of simple syrup (equal parts of sugar and water, boiled until dissolved)
2 ounces vodka (or 1 ounce gin and 1 ounce vodka, apparently)
1/2 ounce lime juice (optional)

Combine muddled strawberries, chilled simple syrup, and basil leave in shaker. Add lime juice if using, vodka (or gin & vodka) and ice, shake. Tip into martini glass, garnish with a basil leaf and/or a strawberry, and enjoy!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bing Cherry Fritters

Bing Cherry FrittersServes: 6

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 1/3 cups milk
4 eggs, separated
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups Bing cherries, pitted
oil for frying
sifted powdered sugar

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Add the milk, egg yolks, oil, and lemon juice and beat until smooth. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gently fold them into the batter. Fold in the pitted cherries. In a deep, heavy saucepan, heat 3 inches of oil to 375F degrees. Drop a few tablespoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a very low-temperature oven. Repeat until all the batter is cooked. Serve at once, topped with powdered sugar

Serves: 6

Lemon Tart with Apricot Glaze

Tart Pastry Shell Recipe
1 1/4 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of butter chilled
2 tablespoons of ice cold water
Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into the flour mixture then using your fingers, roll the butter pieces into the flour until they are the size of small peas. Place the bowl into the freezer for 5 mins. Meanwhile fill a cup with ice and add water. Take the bowl out of the freezer and add 1 tablespoon to the flour mixture, mix with hands, then add 2nd tablespoon and mix. Slowly form a ball with the flour mixture. If it is too flakey, carefully add a 1/2 tablespoon of water at a time while mixing with the flour mixture after each addition. Finally roll out the flour pastry onto a clean floured surface. Transfer the rolled pastry to a 9″ tart pan and place in the freezer for 20 mins. Preheat oven to 425F. Cover the base of the pastry with foil and using a fork, poke several holes. Next bake in the oven for 8 mins, then remove foil and bake for an additional 8-10 mins until pastry is light brown and crispy. Remove and let cool.
easy lemon tart recipe
Easy Lemon Tart Filling
Grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
3 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons of sugar
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut to 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Preheat oven to 325.
Fill a medium saucepan 1/4 full of water and heat to simmer. In a stainless steel bowl, strain the lemon juice to remove the seeds, and whisk in theeggs and lemon zest. Add the sugar, cornstarch and pieces of butter and place the bowl over the medium saucepan but do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. You can use a metal stand or prop the bowl on the edge of the saucepan with the simmering water. Stir until the butter melts and the filling is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 15 mins.
Place the prebaked tart shell on a baking sheet and pour the filling into the shell. Bake for 15-20 mins. It won’t completely set but will bubble and look more solid. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
Apricot Glaze
1/4 cup of apricot jelly
Microwave apricot jelly until it boils (45 sec). Then pass through a fine mesh seive.
Lemon Tart Garnish
easy lemon tart recipeWhile cooling, prepare the garnish. Wash and dry a medium sized lemon. Using a paring knife, carefully cut lengthwise grooves (about 1cm wide) at regular intervals. You’ll need to make a V shaped incision to do this and be careful not to cut beyond the white rind of the lemon. After completeing 8 of these cuts along the lemon, place the lemon on a cutting board and cut a crosswise slice from the center of the lemon and place into the center of the tart. Slice the remaining lemon halves and cut the sections in half to create 2 semi circles. Place these semi-circle lemon pieces around the edge of the tart. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush on a coat of apricot glaze over the tart and pastry shell edges. Enjoy!

Almond Cake with Apricot Glaze

I made this for a weekend brunch, from apricots in my neighbourhood. The flavour combination of almonds with apricots was subtle, but lovely. I'd like to try this with a stronger citrus element, probably lemon in the glaze, but some lemon zest in the cake might add just enough excitement too.

Makes 1 10" cake


For the Cake:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
1 tsp almond extract
6 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted twice, then measured
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup apricot jam (I substituted stewed fresh apricots, unsweetened)
1/3 cup sliced almonds

For the Glaze:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed apricot juice (about 8-10 apricots), strained through a sieve to remove pulp
1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar/icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350* Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and almond extract until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternately add the flour mixture and sour cream in small amounts, and blend well; add the lemon juice with the last addition.Pour half the batter into the prepared cake pan. Spoon the apricot jam over the batter in the pan, being careful not to let the jam touch the side of the pan. Sprinkle the almonds over the jam. Spoon the remaining batter over the almonds in the pan.Bake for 1 hour, or until the cake is lightly golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the apricot juice, sugar and vanilla. Transfer the cake to a cake stand or plate. Use a pastry brush to apply the glaze to the top and sides of the cake.

Update: Variation
Replace the apricot glaze with a lemon syrup by combining 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice with 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a nonreactive saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, to reduce the liquid to 1/3 cup. Add 3 apricots, sliced crosswise, and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the apricots with a slotted spoon and arrange on top of the cake. Brush the syrup on the top and sides of the cake.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Apricot Preserves

Apricot Preserves
1 kg of fresh apricots
1 1/3 cups of granulated suga
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

a heavy bottomed non-reactive pan (an enameled cast-iron pan is ideal, or a heavy stainless steel pan. Don't use aluminum or uncoated cast-iron.)
canning jars with rubber-seal jar lids.

Melt the sugar and water in the pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until clear and slightly syrupy. (Watch the pot at this stage or you might end up with a potful of hard crystallized sugar!)
Carefully sort and wash the apricots. Halve them and discard the pits, making sure to get rid of the stem end. (To halve them I just rip them apart with my fingers - far easier than cutting them with a knife.)
Optionally, crack open a few of the pits (just a few, no more than a small handful) with a nutcracker or hammer (wrap them in a cloth and smash), wrap them in some cheesecloth and put in the pot. This imparts an intriguing almond flavor to the preserves.
Put about half of the apricots in the sugar syrup and simmer until the fruit is almost falling apart. Put in the rest of the apricots and continue simmering until they are almost falling apart, but not quite. The whole procedure will take about an hour or more, depending on how soft your apricots were to start with.
Add the lemon juice and stir. Simmer an additional 5 minutes, then take off the heat. Take out the cheesecloth with the pits if you put them in.
(If the jam gets burned on the bottom at any point, just pour out the unburned jam into a fresh pot and continue cooking. Don't scrape the burned bits into the new pot!)

Preparing the jars and lids
While you are simmering the preserves, sterilize the jars and lids. There are a couple of ways of doing this. If your dishwasher can sterilize baby bottles, you can use that setting for the jars and lids. Otherwise use one of the following methods:

  • The traditional boiling pot of water: Bring a big pot of water to a boil, and lower the jars into it, immersing them completely. Follow up with the lids. Boil for a few minutes to sterilize. Take them out with clean tongs.
  • The low oven method: Put the washed jars and lids into an oven heated to about 230*F. "Bake" the jars for about 20 minutes, or until the water on them is totally dried out. Take them out carefully using tongs and/or a clean oven mitt.

Filling the jars
(When you are handling the sterilized jars and lids
, at no point should you touch the jars inside or on the rims, or inside the lids, as your hands are not sterile.)

To fill the jars, fill them up to the very rim with the boiling hot preserves, then immediately screw on a lid. Don't worry if some of the liquid spills - and whatever you do, don't try to wipe the rim. Now, leave the jars until you hear and see the lids "popping" - they should be indented. That's the indication that they are vacuum-sealed.
Once the jars are cool, wipe off any dribbles outside the jar with a damp cloth, and store in a cool, dark place. Remember that an opened jar must be stored in the refrigerator.
This will make about 2 small jars of preserves.

If they are a little runny don't worry. They will still taste terrific.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Apricot Coffee Cake

Apricot Coffee CakeThis would also be good with other tart and not super-juicy fruits, like rhubarb or plums.


For the Cake:
2 cups ripe apricots, washed and quartered
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
a dash of salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup butter
1 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten

For the Topping:
1 tbsp crème fraîche (substitute heavy cream and/or sour cream)1 tbsp sugar
1 egg

Finishing Touch:
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 360*F and grease a 9'' cake pan, preferably springform. In a food processor, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and butter. Add in the sugar, and mix again. Add in the egg and milk, then mix again until just combined, avoid overmixing. Pour the batter into the pan -- it will be somewhat thick, so spread it around with a spatula if needed. Add the apricots on top, arranging them in a pretty circular pattern. In a small bowl, combine the crème fraîche, sugar and egg, beating them with a fork, and pour this mixture evenly over the top of the cake.Put in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden and the apricots are tender. Leave it in the turned off oven for another ten to fifteen minutes. Dust with confectioner's sugar just before serving, warm, at room temperature or cold.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pansy Flower Cookies

These cookies are so pretty. They are just lovely for a garden party, a tea party, or a bridal shower. Serve with a nice cold pitcher of lavender lemonade for a beautiful and tasty summer treat.

Makes 4 dozen cookies

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tspbaking soda
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cream of tartar
3 1/2 cups flour plus extra for dusting
1/4 tsp salt
2 egg whites
48 clean edible pansy blossoms (one per cookie

Pansy Flower Cookies
This photo is copied from the website where I found the recipe. I didn't capture an image of my cookies.

Cream the butter with 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Mix in the eggs and sugar.Dissolve the baking soda in the milk and add to the mixture, along with the vanilla. Sift the cream of tartar, flour, and salt together and stir into the creamed mixture. Mix thoroughly. Gather the dough and wrap in plastic wrap, chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/8" thick. Cut out circles approximately the size of the pansy blossom. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the tops of the cookies with the egg whites. Place one pansy on top, spreading out the petals and topping with a bit more egg white. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and cook 5 minutes more. Let cool before serving.

Lavender Lemonade

When using any edible flower for consumption, be sure to use food grade flowers which have not been sprayed or treated with chemicals or pesticides. Do not use florist flowers.

Serves 6

A small handful of freshly picked and rinsed lavender flowers, or 1 tsp of dried lavender flowers
1 cup white sugar or honey, or to taste
2 cups boiling water for infusion
4 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 16-20 lemons)
3-5 cups cold water

Dissolve sugar in boiling water. Cut lavender flowers from stems and place in a large pyrex measuring cup. Pour sugar and water over the flowers. Cover and infuse for 30 minutes (or several hours). Strain the lavender-infused syrup and pour into serving pitcher, discarding the flowers. Stir in lemon juice, add 3 cups cold water. Taste and adjust for tartness. Add more lemon juice if it is too sweet for your liking, or more water if it is too tart. Add ice and more cold water until you reach the desired balance of concentration, bearing in mind that as the ice melts it will dilute the lemonade. Stir in zest of two lemons for a deeper flavour. Garnish with some thin slices of lemon and some lavender sprigs, if desired.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rhubarb Raspberry Trifle

500 grams rhubarb, cleaned and cut into 1 cm. pieces
150 grams sugar
750 grams fresh raspberries
Zest of 1 lemon
4 tablespoons Grand Marnier
250 grams quark
4 slices lemon pound cake
Chopped pistachios, optional

In large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add rhubarb slices, allow to boil for 1-2 minutes. Drain, allow to drip. Place rhubarb and 100 grams sugar in food processor, puree until smooth. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, gently mix together raspberries, lemon zest, 50 grams sugar, 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, making sure not to squish the raspberries.
In another bowl, fold rhubarb puree with quark. Cut lemon pound cake slices in cubes, drizzle with remaining Grand Marnier.
Assemble trifle in tall glasses by placing a few cake cubes at the bottom of the glass, layer with a generous dollop of rhubarb-quark, then a few raspberries. Repeat, finishing with a few raspberries on the top.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let flavors infuse with each other. Serve cold, sprinkled with chopped pistachios, if desired.

Note: If you are unable to find quark, substitue with natural sour cream mixed with whipped cream. You can also use mascarpone cheese for this.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Raspberry Sherry Trifle

Bake time: 25 minutes        Yields: 10-12 servings

1 (18 1/2 ounce) package cake mix (Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Gold recommended)
1 1/2 cups dry sherry
7 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups whipping cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
3 (12 ounce) packages frozen sweetened raspberries, thawed
Whipped cream, optional (for garnish)
Fresh raspberries, optional (for garnish)
Mint leaves, optional (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 13"x9" baking pan. Prepare cake according to package directions, but use 1/2 cup of sherry in place of 1/2 cup of water. When baked, let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto wire rack to cool completely. Cut cake into large cubes, about 1 1/2" wide.
Place egg yolks, sugar, 1 cup sherry into top of a double boiler. Whisk until completely combined. Place top pan over simmering water (do not let water touch the bottom of the top pan). With a wooden spoon, stir over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until custard is quick thick (about the consistency of mayonnaise). Let cool.
Whip cream with icing sugar. Take half of whipped cream, fold into cooled custard.

To assemble:
In the bottom of a trifle bowl or a 13"x9" disposable aluminum foil pan, layer 1/3 of cake cubes, 1/3 of raspberries, and 1/3 of custard. Continue layering, ending with custard. Take remaining whipped cream, completely cover top of custard. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Serve with additional whipped cream, fresh raspberries, and a sprig of mint, if desired.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Homemade Herb Cheese

Cook time: 5 minutes        Yields: 8-10 servings

1 gallon whole milk
1 pint half-and-half
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes (not in oil)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon salt
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Drill holes into the bottom of a round plastic storage container (approximately 6" wide and at least 4" high) and set aside. Line a colander with cheesecloth, set aside. Put milk and half-and-half into a large pot over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until it reaches 195 degrees F. (There will be a slight simmer and the top will be very foamy.) Remove from the heat and slowly stir in vinegar. Put colander into sink and pour mixture into cheesecloth. When most of the liquid has passed through, add the tomatoes, basil, and salt; stir gently to incorporate. Gather up ends of cheesecloth and transfer cheese to plastic container. Set container on a rack or sheet pan to catch the whey. Put a plate on top and weigh it down with some heavy cans to squeeze out the excess liquid. Let rest 1 hour, remove cheesecloth, return cheese to plastic container with plate and weights. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, put cheese onto a plate and brush with a little olive oil.

This is so yummy on fresh bread, in eggs, or on pizza! I'm sure it is a good fit elsewhere too, but these are the ways I used it this week.

Cranberry Jelly in a Mold

Cook time: 10 minutes        Yields: 8-10 servings
1 (8 ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
2 1/4 cups cranberry juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
Non-stick cooking spray

In saucepan over medium-high heat, cook cranberries, 2 cups cranberry juice, and sugar until mixture is bubbling and cranberries have burst. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over remaining 1/4 cup cranberry juice to soften. Whisk gelatin mixture into hot cranberries. Strain into a bowl, let cool. Spray mold with non-stick cooking spray, pour cooled juice into mold. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or overnight. To unmold, briefly dip mold into hot water to loosen jelly.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Glazed Almond Bundt Cake

Cook time: 70 minutes        Yields: 16 servings

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ground almonds
1 cup milk

1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10" Bundt pan. Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, ground almonds; set aside. In large bowl, cream together butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time; stir in almond and vanilla extracts. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with 1 cup milk, mixing just until incorporated. Pour into prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven 60-70 minutes, until toothpick inserted into centre of cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, invert on wire rack, cool 10 minutes longer. Place rack on waxed paper. Glaze while warm.

Combine ingredients for glaze. Pour over warm cake.

Chocolate Dessert Lasagna

Cook time: 40 minutes        Yields: 9 servings

1 (8 ounce) package no-boil lasagna noodles
2 pounds ricotta cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
1 orange, zested
1/2 cup roasted pistachios
4 ounces white chocolate, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook noodles for 1 minute. Drain, put into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain again, lay on paper towels to dry.
Whisk together ricotta, sugar, cocoa powder, and eggs on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips and orange zest. Spread 1/4 of cheese mixture into the bottom of an 8"x8" baking dish. Sprinkle some of the pistachios over the top, press on a layer of noodles. Repeat, ending with ricotta mixture and pistachios. Bake 35-40 minutes, or until lasagna has risen. Remove pan from oven, sprinkle white chocolate evenly over it. Let cool, cut, serve.

Rosemary Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Cook time: 65 minutes Yields: 8-10 servings
1 head garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
Freshly ground black pepper
Snipped fresh rosemary, optional (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut top off garlic, wrap head in foil leaving top cut edge exposed. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 45 minutes or until garlic is soft and caramelized. Set aside to cool. 
In medium pan, cover potatoes with water, add a big pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower heat to medium and simmer about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain well. 
While potatoes are cooking, warm cream and rosemary in small pan over low heat. Strain out rosemary.
Put hot potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. Squeeze in roasted garlic and add some of the warm cream. Mix well. Add butter, mix again. Add more cream if necessary. Season with salt and pepper. If desired, garnish with snipped rosemary. Serve immediately.

Raspberry and Hazelnut Salad with Chocolate Ganache

For those who like a nice fresh salad with their soup!

Cook time: 10 minutes Yields: 4 servings

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup raspberry liqueur (Framboise)
1/2 pint raspberries
2 tablespoons hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint, thinly sliced
Small pinch salt
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (Framboise)
4 ounces (1/2 cup) sweetened whipped cream (for garnish)
Small piece bittersweet chocolate to shave (for garnish)

In small saucepan, bring cream, butter, and sugar to a boil. Remove from heat, stir in chopped chocolate so that it melts completely. Stir in raspberry liqueur. Let ganache cool to room temperature.
Gently combine raspberries, hazelnuts, mint, small pinch of salt, and raspberry liqueur. 
In wide, shallow soup bowl, pour about 3 ounces of room temperature ganache to fill shallow pool in the bottom of the bowl, about 1/8" deep. Place a nice spoonful of raspberry/hazelnut salad in centre, garnish with a small spoonful of whipped cream and shaved bittersweet chocolate. Top with chopped hazelnuts, if desired.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baked Brie with Roasted Garlic and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Bake time: 63 minutes        Yields: 24 servings

1 whole head garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (12 ounce) round of brie cheese
3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and cut into thin strips
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil
Crostini* or apple slices
Sprigs of fresh basil or rosemary, green and black olives, optional (for garnish)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Cut off 1/4" of pointed end of head of garlic. (Save small pieces for another recipe.) Place cut side up in a piece of aluminum foil. Place rosemary on top. Bring sides of foil up to make a deep bowl, but do not enclose garlic completely. Pour olive oil over top of garlic. Bake 40-45 minuntes in preheated oven. Cool
Squeeze garlic so that the cloves pop out of their papery jackets. They should be creamy. Smash them and spread on top of brie (including some of the rosemary). Place brie in ovenproof dish. Top with tomatoes and pine nuts. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C).
Bake brie until warm and softened, 13-18 minutes. If topping is getting too browned, cover loosely with aluminum foil during last portion of baking.
Sprinkle slivers of fresh basil on top. Surround with crostini and/or apple slices. Garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs and, if using, drained olives. Provide a spreading knife.

*Crostini - toasted slices of good bread that have been brushed with a little olive oil before toasting.

Note: If you can only find small, 4-ounce disks of brie, push 3 small wheels next to one another.
Advance Preparation: Garlic can be roasted several days in advance and stored, airtight, in the refrigerator. You can assemble the brie with the garlic, tomatoes, and pine nuts a day in advance and store, airtight, in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Soup

Now, I'm normally not a fan of soup, but I have to say this one grabbed me and haunts my dreams!

Cook time: 15 minutes Yields: 4 servings

4 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons cornstarch
5 tablespoons cold water
Mini chocolate biscotti (for garnish)
Fresh raspberries (for garnish)
Fresh mint leaves (for garnish)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together whole milk, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla bean. Bring almost to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, let steep for 20 minutes. Strain and return to the pan. (Rinse and dry the vanilla bean and save it for another use.)
Put the pan on low heat, add the chocolate, whisk until chocolate melts. Combine cornstarch and water to form a slurry. Add the slurry a little at a time, whisking constantly, until soup is thick and smooth. You will know it is ready when the bubbles are gone and the chocolate has thickened, about 5-7 minutes. 
Pour soup into bowls and garnish with biscotti, raspberries, and mint leaves. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Microwave Aromatherapy Hot Towels

For a hot towel like you might be given in a fancy-ish restaurant.
"Cook" time: 5 minutes        Yields: 4 washcloths

4 sprigs rosemary
4 white washcloths

Put the rosemary sprigs into a large microwave safe bowl, fill it about 3/4 full of water. Microwave on high, 3-4 minutes or until water is very hot. Remove bowl from microwave, add washcloths. Let them soak for a few minutes. Carefully (they will be hot) remove from water, wring them out. Fold washcloths in half, place 1 sprig of rosemary on each cloth and roll up like a cigar. Put onto microwave safe plate, heat on low for 1 minute. Give one to each guest when they sit down at the table.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Poppy Seed Cake with Orange Glaze

Bake time: 1 hour

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/8 cups vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix all ingredients well. Pour into greased pan(s) - either 2 loaf pans or a 9"x13" cake pan. Bake 1 hour. Glaze while hot.

Boil ingredients together. Pour over cake after using handle of wooden spoon, fork, toothpick, etc to poke holes in cake.

This is also really good with lemon juice instead of orange.