Sunday, February 27, 2011

Balsamic-Roasted Pears with Pepper and Honey

Pears surrounded by cheese is a fabulous way to have a very Italian ending to a good meal.   The roasting of the pears with balsamic vinegar sharpens the flavor.   The addition of Manchego cheese,  a mild sheep's milk cheese, and drizzling of honey, with fresh black pepper adds dazzle to this very elegant and easy to prepare dessert.

Balsamic-Roasted Pears with Pepper and Honey
Serves 4
Recipe from Gourmet

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 firm but ripe Bosc pears, halved lengthwise and cored
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 pound Manchego or mild fresh goat cheese, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
Freshly ground black pepper

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Put butter in an 8-inch square baking dish and melt in oven, about 3 minutes.

Arrange pears cut sides down in one layer in dish.  Roast until tender, about 20 minutes.

Pour vinegar over pears and roast for 5 minutes more.

Transfer pears, cut sides down, to serving plates and spoon some of juices from baking dish over them.  Arrange cheese next to pears, drizzle pears and cheese with honey, and sprinkle with pepper.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Toast to Bruschetta!

An appetizer from Central Italy dating back as early as the 15th century, bruschetta is a simple grilled bread that is rubbed with garlic and can be topped with a range of ingredients from savory to sweet.

We prepared two varieties of bruschetta, an Asparagus-Proscuitto and a Zucchini-Ricotta Salata.

These tasty appetizers can start any party in style.

How to Make Bruschetta

Thinly slice a baguette; arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  For a sweet bruschetta brush with softened butter and sprinkle withs alt and sugar.

Bake at 425 degrees F until lightly golden, about 7 minutes.  Let cool slightly, then top as desired.

Slice a small zucchini into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler or mandolin.  Toss with lemon juice, olive oil and a big pinch of salt.  Rub the warm toast with rounds of smashed garlic clove.  Top with the zucchini, shaved ricotta salata and fresh pepper; drizzle with any juices from the zucchini.

Toss halved asparagus spears with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet.  Roast at 450 degrees F. until slightly crisp, 7 minutes.  Spread softened butter on the toast rounds.  Top with sliced proscuitto and then roasted asparagus.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Kristin Cohea

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cocoa brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts

When is the last time a brownie rocked your world?  These are the best-ever brownies that you will ever eat.  The family recipe you have tucked in the kitchen drawer, throw it away!  You have a new brownie recipe that will be your new favorite.

The brownies are chewy with a fudgy center and are graced with a shiny, crackly top.  It's almost impossible not to eat the entire pan.

There is very little flour in this recipe which provides the density and the addition of browned butter adds a rich nutty flavor.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts
Makes 16
Recipe from Bon Appetit

Nonstick vegetable spray
10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled).
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces

Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat oven to 325 F.  Line 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan with foil, pressing foil firmly against pan sides and leaving 2-inch overhang.  Coat foil with nonstick spray.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Continue cooking until butter stops foaming and browned bits form at bottom of pan, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat; immediately add sugar, cocoa, 2 teaspoons water, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt.  Stir to blend.  Let cool 5 minutes (mixture will still be hot).  Add eggs to hot mixture 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition.  When mixture looks thick and shiny, add flour and stir until blended.  Beat vigorously 60 strokes.  Stir in nuts.  Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake brownies until toothpick inserted into center comes out almost clean (with a few moist crumbs attached), about 25 minutes.  Cool in pan on rack.  Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan.  Cut into 4 strips.  Cut each strip crosswise into 4 brownies.

Do ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blood Orange French 75

Since February is the month of love, the colors and ingredients in this cocktail are perfect for a romantic evening.

This is an updated classic Champagne-gin cocktail that includes blood orange pulp and a dash of bitters.  

This elegant drink can also serve a crowd since the base mixture can easily be made one day ahead.

Blood Orange French 75
Serves 12
Recipe from Bon Appetit

3 blood oranges (about 1 pound)
1-1/2 cups gin
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon angostura bitters
2- 750-ml chilled Champagne

Cut 1 orange in half through stem.  Cut each orange half crosswise into 6 slices; reserve for garnish.

Using small knife, cut the peel and white pith from remaining 2 oranges; chop oranges.  Transfer chopped oranges with juices to bowl; mash with potato masher or wooden spoon.  Stir in gin, sugar, and bitters.

Strain into 2-cup measuring cup, pressing on solids to release liquid.  Chill 4 hours.

Pour scant 2 tablespoons gin mixture into each of 12 glasses; fill with Champagne and garnish with orange.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Nisrine at

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roasted Fennel Soup with Hazelnuts

Last weekend, I experienced a soup that was intensely flavorful but, was delicate on the palate.  This was proof that food made with only a few fresh ingredients can deliver concentrated flavors that are satisfying and comforting.  This soup included fennel, onions and rosemary, that were roasted, and combined with a good quality stock.  The final touch was a dusting of toasted hazelnuts.   

Roasted Fennel Soup with Hazelnuts
Serves 8
Recipe from Chef Marc Canora/Prepared by Robert Butler

8 large fennel bulbs, trimmed cut into 8 wedges
3 large onions, cut into 8 wedges
4-four-inch long fresh rosemary sprigs
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup hazelnuts
10 cups chicken stock

1.  Preheat oven to 375F.  In a large roasting pan, toss the fennel with the onions, rosemary sprigs and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast for about 45 minutes, tossing halfway through, until the fennel is tender and browned in spots.  Discard the rosemary sprigs.

2.  Meanwhile, spread the hazelnuts in a pie plate and toast for about 8 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Let cool, then coarsely chop the hazelnuts.

3.  Scrape the vegetables and any juices into a large soup pot.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer.  Cover and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 35 minutes.

4.  In a blender, carefully puree the soup in batches until smooth.  Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot.  Reheat the soup and season with salt and pepper.  Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle with hazelnuts and serve.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Espresso Panna Cotta

Our friend Scott makes some of the best grilled meats that we have ever tasted.  Recently we invited him and his wife to enjoy our cooking club as guests.   One of our members was unable to attend, so Scott was assigned the dessert course.  Even though this took the grill master out of his comfort zone, he accepted the challenge and delivered a fabulous panna cotta.

Espresso Panna Cotta
Recipe from Tyler Florence and prepared/tweaked by Scott Rainey
Serves 8-10


Cocoa Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Scott tweak: 1 teaspoon kahlua 

Espresso Panna Cotta:
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon espresso beans, roughly ground
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 orange, peel only
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
Scott tweak: 2 tablespoons chocolate shaving

Add the cocoa powder to the heavy cream for the cocoa whipped cream.  Stir well to combine and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Begin preparing the panna cotta by placing the heavy cream, ground espresso beans, sugar and orange peel in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Bring to a simmer, turn off the heat, and steep for 6-8 minutes.

Add the powdered gelatin and using a whisk stir over low heat, to warm the mixture and dissolve the gelatin.  Do not let it simmer.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve (this not only removes the peel and the espresso beans, but also any undissolved gelatin), pour into the individual espresso cups.  Cover with plastic, and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour.

Once you put these in the refrigerator you can finish preparing the cocoa whipped cream (alternately, you can do it just before you serve the panna cotta).  Whip the cocoa cream until begins to thicken and then add the confectioners' sugar.  Whip until soft peaks form and serve over each panna cotta.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tallahassee Cooking Club, January 2011

Welcome to Cooking Club!  The theme for the evening was a dish from your favorite celebrity chef.

I wanted to share with you photos from Saturday evening.


The evening started an  Isle of Pines Cocktail.  You can check out the link here: 

Wild mushrooms in a Madeira sauce served on whole grain toast points

Roasted fennel soup with a dusting of hazelnuts

Roasted vegetable ratatouille

 Espresso Panna Cotta for Dessert

Another fabulous evening. Great food, great wine and great friends.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Honey-Roasted Onion Tart

If you are looking for a little intensity in your weeknight meal or need a good appetizer that can be dressed to impress, then this savory blend of caramelized onions, bacon and honey is your ticket to sitting in front of the fireplace with a good bottle of wine.

Honey-Roasted Onion Tart
6 appetizer servings
Recipe from Bon Appetit

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3 ounce package), thawed.
3 bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 large sweet yellow onions (about 1-1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3/4 cup creme fraiche
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Position rack in top third of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.  Using lightly floured rolling pin, roll-out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to 14x10-inch rectangle.  Fold 1/2-inch of pastry edges in toward center on all sides, forming 13x9-inch rectangle.  Transfer pastry to large rimmed baking sheet.  Press firmly on pastry edges with fork to form rim.  Chill crust.

Cook bacon in small skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp.  Transfer to paper towels to drain.  reserve 1 tablespoon bacon drippings from skillet.  Whisk honey, wine and reserved 1 tablespoon bacon drippings in large bowl.  Add onions; toss to coat.  Coat another large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray.  Spread onion mixture in even layer on sheet.  Roast 30 minutes.  Turn onions over, allowing rings to separate.  Roast until onions are caramelized, turning often for even browning, 30-45 minutes.  Remove from oven; cool onions slightly.

Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F.  Mix creme fraiche, sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and nutmeg in small bowl.  Using offset spatula, spread creme fraiche over crust to folded edge.  Arrange onions atop creme fraiche.  Sprinkle with bacon.  Bake tart until crust is light golden brwn adn topping is bubbling, 20-25 minutes.  Sprinkle with thyme and serve.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Photo submitted by Nisrine