Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall, Friends, & Fab Food!

What's better than good food and good friends on a cool fall night? 

Naturally, we started off with a cocktail, just not the one that was planned...  We were going to serve an Apple Pie Martini, sounds great right?  Not so much.  Here is a warning: never mix Baileys Caramel with apple vodka, trust me.  Never one with out some bubbly in the fridge, the back up was the always delicious Prosecco with St. Germain.  Cheers!

This was enjoyed with the perfectly yummy Creamy Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger.  Do not leave off the garnish!  We used mascarpone, but if you don't have it or want something a bit less decadent, try 0% fat Greek yogurt.  Makes a good weeknight meal too, save the leftovers to have for lunch with a side salad.

Then came perhaps my favorite dish of the night...Pear and Gorgonzola Risotto!  You're thinking - 'What? Pear and Gorgonzola Risotto?'  Trust:  it's delish!  Make this as soon as you can, with the caramelized pare sauce on the side, and the sage.   Mmmm...  You must pair with La Monacesca 2007 Verdicchio di Matelica, Marche, Italy.

Another winner? Micro Greens with Grilled Cheese "Crouton" and Pomegranate Vinaigrette.  I waited all week for this one and it did not disappoint. The wine pairing with these particular dishes were both  perfect.  A 2007 Rocche Costamagna Barbera d'Alba Annunziata from Italy.  The wine was bought at the Wine Cabinet they did a great job helping choose the wine.  We all agree that we need to make a shopping trip soon! 

The main course? Pan Roasted Quail with Wild Mushroom Sauce.  If you like quail (taste like chicken!) you will like this dish.  Don't be intimidated by the little birdies, they were fairly easy to cook up.  The side dish was another super easy and great weeknight meal accompaniment - easy to adapt to whatever veggies you may have laying around.  I give you: Roasted Fall Vegetables.

Oh - and for bonus points we used the potatoes from our garden in the veg dish...
Yup - that's all of them and they really were that small.  Don't tell Ireland, they may revoke our Irish Heritage card.  No wonder the ancestors had to leave, we probably caused the great potato famine...

Now, I know I already called out the risotto as my fave, but it should go without saying that the Cheese Plate is ALWAYS the best part of the night for me!  I am starting to notice a pattern in my cheese plate photos, I always forget to take a photo until we are half way though the course... you see where my priorities lie:)  The toasted baguettes with a hint of garlic and olive oil were a great addition, as well as the fig jam, a very nice accompaniment indeed. 

Last, but not least our WCC Nicole and Rick made the fantastically fall-ish Easy Pastry Shop Apple Tart!  Delectable, light, and a perfect end to a wonderful evening. 

An d now, the moment you all have been waiting for....

Sorry!  We re waiting to see if the couple picked is available, if not back in the pot they go and we'll pick again!   As the holidays are quickly coming upon our next dinner will be in January.  And then perhaps a little February fun for all... stay tuned!

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup with Ginger


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled raw sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, cut into large dice
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth, homemade or from a carton or can
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Garnish: fresh marscapone cheese
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep saute pan until shimmering. 

Add sweet potatoes, then onion; saute, stirring very little at first, then more frequently, until vegetables start to turn golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. 

Reduce heat to low and add butter, sugar and garlic; continue cooking until all vegetables are a rich spotty caramel color, about 10 minutes longer. 

Add ginger, nutmeg and cayenne pepper; continue to saute until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. 

Add broth; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until sweet potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes

Using an immersion blender or traditional blender, puree until very smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (If using a traditional blender, vent it either by removing the lid's pop-out center or by lifting one edge of the lid. Drape the blender canister with a kitchen towel. To 'clean' the canister, pour in a little half-and-half, blend briefly, then add to the soup.

Return to pan (or a soup pot); add enough half-and-half so the mixture is souplike, yet thick enough to float garnish. Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed. Heat through, ladle into bowls, garnish and serve.

Pear and Gorgonzola Risotto


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 pears (peeled and cut into bite sized pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 1/4 pound Gorgonzola
  • 2 T cream
  • 1 T butter


Melt the butter in a large sauce pan.

Add 1/2 the pears and sugar and caramelize. Set pears aside.

Heat the chicken stock in a pan and keep warm while making the risotto.

Heat the oil

Add the onions and saute until tender.

Add the rice and saute until the rice becomes translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add the wine and deglaze the bottom of the pot.  Stir until completely absorbed

Add 1/2 cup of the chicken stock to the rice and stir until the rice absorbs it. Continue to do this until the rice is cooked al dente, about 20-30 minutes.

Add the cream, butter and gorgonzola and stir until the gorgonzola melts.

Add fresh pears just before serving, top with caramelized pears.

Micro Greens with Grilled Cheese "Crouton" and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • Micro Greens
  • Sliced baguette (2 slices per person)
  • Arugula
  • Guyere Cheese
  • Prosciutto
  • Butter 
  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette


Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
  • 1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate Molasses

  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar

  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus extra

  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, plus extra

  • 2 tbsp canola oil

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the first 5 ingredients. While continuously whisking vigorously, slowly drizzle in the canola oil to form an emulsified vinaigrette. Taste the vinaigrette and adjust seasonings as desired with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Note: If the vinaigrette is too tart for your liking, simply whisk in more canola oil. 

Butter one side of the baguette slice on the opposite side build your grilled cheese, layering each item with cheese in between and on so that as the cheese melts it holds the crouton together. Top with other slice of bread and butter that side.  Toast in a panini press or grill pan.

Toss the micro greens with pomegranate vinaigrette.  Serve freshly toasted "crouton" on the side.

Pan Roasted Quail with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Modified from William-Sonoma: London

  • 8 tbs olive oil
  •  zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 shallot, sliced thinly
  • 2 fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 2 quail, cut in half
  • 10 oz wild mushrooms cleaned and trimmed
  • 2 shallots finally chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • sea salt
  • 1/2 c dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 c chicken stock
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter, diced



Stir together 3 tbs of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, shallot, parsley, and pinch of pepper.  Marinate quail halves in refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 3.


Thickly slice or halve mushrooms if they are large.  in a large wide pan, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  add shallots, garlic and cook until soft, about 3 min.  raise heat to medium, add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until the mushrooms have softened slightly.  pour in vermouth and boil until reduced to a few tablespoons, about 5 minutes.  Add chicken stock, chopped parsley, and thyme.  boil until the liquid has reduced by half, about 5 minutes.   Stir in butter and salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm over low heat while you prepare the quail. 


In wide frying pan, heat remaining 3 tbs of olive oil.  Remove Quail from marinade, pat dry and season lightly with salt.  In pan, cook until golden, about 2 minutes.  Turn and cook until the juices run clear when cut with a knife, about another 2-3 minutes. 

Place quails on plates and spoon sauce over the birds. 

Roasted Fall Vegetables

You can make as little or as much of this as you want and use other veggies if you have them.  Use this more as guidelines rather than hard and fast instructions.


  • potatoes
  • butternut squash
  • carrots
  • parsnips
  • sweet potatoes,
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • stone ground mustard


Preheat oven to 400°

Cut vegtables into equal size pieces

Drizzle vegtables with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss gently with your hands to coat; then spread half of mixed vegetables on large baking sheet. 

Roast vegetables 30 minutes or until done. Stir gently with a metal spatula if they are sticking. 

Toss with stone ground mustard


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Easy Pastry Shop Apple Tart

Recipe courtesy Laura Calder


For the crust
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • For the cream filling
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the top
  • 3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds or chopped walnuts


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make the crust: Cream the butter and sugar. Stir in the vanilla. Finally, mix in the flour to make a smooth dough. Press into the bottom of an 8-inch springform pan, giving it about a 1-inch rim. Bake 15 minute, or until lightly golden. Remove the tart shell from the oven.

While the crust bakes, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla for the cream filling until smooth. Make the topping by tossing the apple slices with the cinnamon, sugar, and nuts.

Remove the tart shell from the oven. Spread over the cream mixture. Arrange the apple slices on top, and then scatter over the nuts. Bake until the apples are tender and golden, about 40 minutes.