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  • Clementine in the Kitchen (Modern Library Food)
    Clementine in the Kitchen (Modern Library Food)
  • The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School
    The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears in Paris at the World's Most Famous Cooking School
  • On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town
    On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town
  • I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany
    I'll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany
  • Mad About Macarons!: Make Macarons Like the French
    Mad About Macarons!: Make Macarons Like the French
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
    Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes
  • Tartine
    Tartine
  • Bistro Cooking
    Bistro Cooking
  • Nantucket Open-House Cookbook
    Nantucket Open-House Cookbook
  • Gourmet Shops of Paris: An Epicurean Tour
    Gourmet Shops of Paris: An Epicurean Tour
  • Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme
    Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme
  • The Patisseries of Paris: Chocolatiers, Tea Salons, Ice Cream Parlors, and more
    The Patisseries of Paris: Chocolatiers, Tea Salons, Ice Cream Parlors, and more
  • I Know How to Cook
    I Know How to Cook
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    I Love Macarons
  • A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes
    A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes
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    Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home
  • PATRICIA WELLS AT HOME IN PROVENCE: Recipes Inspired By Her Farmhouse In France
    PATRICIA WELLS AT HOME IN PROVENCE: Recipes Inspired By Her Farmhouse In France
  • Summer on a Plate: More than 120 delicious, no-fuss recipes for memorable meals from Loaves and Fishes
    Summer on a Plate: More than 120 delicious, no-fuss recipes for memorable meals from Loaves and Fishes
  • Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul
    Roast Figs Sugar Snow: Winter Food to Warm the Soul
  • The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City
    The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City
  • A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France
    A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France
  • The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
    The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen
  • Two Towns in Provence
    Two Towns in Provence
  • Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Cote d'Azur and Italy's Costa Bella
    Mediterranean Summer: A Season on France's Cote d'Azur and Italy's Costa Bella
  • My Life in France
    My Life in France
  • Baking with Julia Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers
    Baking with Julia Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers
  • Paris Boulangerie-Patisserie: Recipes from Thirteen Outstanding French Bakeries
    Paris Boulangerie-Patisserie: Recipes from Thirteen Outstanding French Bakeries
  • Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris
    Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris
  • French Women Don't Get Fat
    French Women Don't Get Fat
  • Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)
    Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)
  • Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris
    Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris
  • Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
    Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
  • Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table (Random House Reader's Circle)
    Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table (Random House Reader's Circle)
  • Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
    Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France
  • Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home
    Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home
  • Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table
    Comfort Me with Apples: More Adventures at the Table
  • Raising the Salad Bar: Beyond Leafy Greens--Inventive Salads with Beans, Whole Grains, Pasta, Chicken, and More
    Raising the Salad Bar: Beyond Leafy Greens--Inventive Salads with Beans, Whole Grains, Pasta, Chicken, and More
  • Chez Panisse Café Cookbook
    Chez Panisse Café Cookbook
  • Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook
    Chez Jacques: Traditions and Rituals of a Cook
  • Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors
    Eat This Book: Cooking with Global Fresh Flavors
  • French Country Kitchen: The Undiscovered Glories of French Regional Cuisine
    French Country Kitchen: The Undiscovered Glories of French Regional Cuisine
  • A Year in Provence
    A Year in Provence
  • Toujours Provence
    Toujours Provence
  • Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France
    Encore Provence: New Adventures in the South of France
  • The French Laundry Cookbook
    The French Laundry Cookbook
  • A Moveable Feast
    A Moveable Feast

recipes and stories from a tart making caterer

Thursday
Dec202012

Moroccan spiced chicken and pomegranate salad with butternut squash and couscous 

 

Don't forget to feed your body and your soul this season with healthful, colorful and delicious food.  There is so much in the way of cookies and treats (I love them too) this time of year but try to remember that which is good for you.

Pomegranates are an ancient fruit rich in history, art, religion, myth and medicine.  Native to Iran, this fruit grown on a small bushy tree, is used extensively in Middle Eastern cooking.  King Tut and other Egyptians were buried with pomegranates in hopes of a second life.  They are mentioned in Homer's Odyssey and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  Pomegranates are mentioned in the Bible when Moses tells the Israelites they are going to a land of pomegranates (among other things) and paintings often portray the Virgin Mary or the baby Jesus holding a pomegranate.  

 

 

"The Madonna of the Pomegranate" painted by the Italian Renaissance master, Sandro Botticelli, hangs in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence, Italy.

Pomegranates have obtained celebrity status recently due to their healthful benefits.  They are loaded with antioxidants, folic acid, vitamins, iron and potassium.  Scientists believe they may help with heart disease, cancer, and aging problems.    

It is simple to extract the ruby jewels of the pomegranate fruit if you know the right technique.  First, cut them in half.  Then place the the cut side of the fruit in the palm of your clean hand with your fingers spread wide apart.  With a large spoon, bang on the back side of the fruit over and over again, releasing the seeds through your fingers.  They start to fall right out after a couple good smacks from your spoon.  

So, enjoy this bejeweled, colorful and healthful fruit rich in history,  somewhere in your holiday menu.  

 

 

My salad is posing in front of my small kitchen Christmas tree, adorned with food ornaments.

 

Peace on Earth.  That is my Christmas wish, peace on earth.  

 

Moroccan Spiced Chicken and Pomegranate Salad with Butternut Squash and Couscous

1 cup couscous

the seeds from one pomegranate, see instructions above

1 small butternut squash, cubed 

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Ras el Hanout - Moroccan spice blend - see below

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted 

1/2 a bunch of cilantro for garnish

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup olive oil + more for roasting chicken and squash

salt and pepper to taste

Take half of the Ras el Hanout and mix it with 2 tablespoons olive oil to form a paste.  Rub all the chicken breasts with the paste and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven, until the chicken is just cooked through but still tender and moist.  Let cool and then slice into 1/2 inch thick slices.

Toss the butternut squash with 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the Ras el Hanout.  Roast on a foil lined baking sheet for 1/2 hour in a 400 degree oven, until tender.  Stir once 1/2 way through.

pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over 1 cup couscous, cover and let sit for 10 minutes

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Spoon onto a large serving platter and garnish with the cilantro and serve.

 

Ras el Hanout - Moroccan spice blend

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl until well combined.

 

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Friday
Nov092012

Pumpkin chipotle chili

 

 

I adore the fall in Florida.  After a long and steamy summer, we finally get to enjoy crisp cool mornings and slightly chilly sleeping weather.  Our town comes alive again with joggers, dog walkers, bikers and of course the snow birds.  

Cooking pumpkin dishes is one of my favorite seasonal rituals.   I served this for a casual dinner of 80 people, as it lends itself to crowd pleasing and is relatively simple to make.  Served with a side of broccoli cornbread, my husbands great Aunt Snookie's recipe from Shreveport, Louisiana... everyone seemed to enjoy the simple supper.  The secret ingredient, pumpkin chipotle, comes from one of my favorite quaint shops, American Spoon, that I visit every summer while we are up in northern Michigan.  I had them ship a large box of the chipotle to me to flavor my seasonal chili.  

 

Pumpkin Chipotle Chili (recipe from the American Spoon)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion diced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey

2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans or Great Northern beans, drained

1 tablespoon cumin

1 (28 oz) can stewed tomatoes

1 tablespoon chili powder (or less if you don't care for spicy)

1 (13 oz) jar peach mango salsa or American Spoon Cherry Peach Salsa 

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 jar American Spoon Pumpkin Chipotle Roasting Sauce

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 oz green chillies, chopped

1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Heat the olive oil in a stockpot and add the onions and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook two more minutes.  Add the ground turkey and sauté until browned.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Serve immediately.  

 

For a printable recipe, click here.

 

What is your favorite pumpkin dish?  To leave a comment, please click here.  

 

 

Thursday
Oct042012

Harvest grape and olive oil cake

 

 

This moist and slightly sweet cake gives a nod to the change in season even if I have yet to feel the relief from the southern heat.  I'm breathing in the crisp autumn air simply as a state of mind.  Our turn will come later this month, usually quite punctually on the 15th of October when Florida has hope regenerated with it's first snap of cooler air.  We're waiting. Still waiting.

 

 

I usually jump the "Florida fall" gun and start looking for recipes that include my autumn favorites such as harvest grapes, butternut squash, sugar pumpkins, crisp apples and pears.  I must admit, I miss the north this time of year, but come February in Florida with its impossibly blue skies, white sandy beaches and when my new Meyer lemon tree or old mango tree are producing their fruit, I'll remember why it is good to live in paradise. 

 

 

This grape and olive oil cake is very slightly sweet and pairs very nicely with my freshly home roasted coffee that I have become so passionate about.  I think that I'll make this for dessert at one of the upcoming fall luncheons that I'm catering.  Unique. Simple. Elegant.  

 

Harvest Grape and Olive Oil Cake 

(recipe adapted from Patricia Well's Winemakers Grape Cake)

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or gluten free flour)

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

A pinch of kosher salt

Grated zest of 1 orange

Grated zest of 1 lemon

12 ounces small purple grapes (if they are not small then cut them in half)

confectioners' sugar for serving

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

 

Butter and flour a 9" round non-stick cake pan. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk sugar and the eggs about 3 minutes, until they are pale yellow. Add the butter, milk, olive oil, vanilla and mix until just blended.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and then mix in the zest of the lemon and orange.  Add dry ingredients to the batter and mix until blended with a wooden spoon.  Set aside for five minutes.

Stir in about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. pour into the cake pan and smooth out the top.  Bake for 15 minutes and then sprinkle the remaining grapes on the top and bake until golden brown on, about 30 minutes longer.  Serve at room temperature.

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For a printable recipe click here.

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Wednesday
Sep052012

Home roasted coffee beans... I've found my new passion

 

It all started with a delayed flight and a long day of travel.  I had nothing to read, so I borrowed a book from my husband, "The Coffee Companion, the Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best Brews."  My first thought was, "Well this one is going to be a snooze" but after chapter one, my cheek had a hook in it and I was slowly being reeled into the world of specialty coffee and coffee roasting.  This book gave a good overview of the history of coffee, where and how the best beans are grown and much more.  

After researching where to buy the best "green" coffee beans (unroasted coffee beans) from around the world, I found some suppliers online who specialize in smaller quantities of green beans for the home roaster, Sweet Maria's and Seven Bridges Cooperative.  We ordered several "single origin samplers" of green coffee beans from around the globe.  And so our journey began.  

 

 

My husband, Mike, and I have been experimenting on the best ways to roast coffee at home.  While there are many fabulous yet somewhat pricey home roasters out there (hello Santa), we got started by roasting our beans on a perforated cookie sheet.  This method is very basic but works just fine for now, however, a drum roaster would give us much more control over the different stages of roasting... city, full city, and full city plus, etc.  We have been roasting roughly a third of a pound at a time which gives us freshly roasted coffee for three or four days, about the life for optimal freshness of roasted coffee.  

 

 

Wow.  This is the BEST coffee I've ever tasted!  Every origin has its own nuances and personality.  I never knew coffee could be so interesting and captivating.  The key is not to over-roast the coffee to the point where it has that "burnt" flavor, you know the flavor that Star*****  is known for.  Once it has been over-roasted, all coffee tastes the same and its subtleties and flavors are lost.  You have to show the bean a little more respect.

If you are fortunate enough to live in a town with its own local coffee roaster, ask them about attending a "cupping" or a coffee tasting.  It is a very specific way to taste test many coffees at a time and compare the coffees grown from different origins.  You will be enlightened for sure. For example, the coffee shown above is Ethiopia Sidema Deri Kochoha.  It tasted of black tea, fig bar, dark chocolate, floral notes, great body and amazing mouthfeel.  I know, it sounds a bit like wine tasting lingo only it is much more low key.  There is no right or wrong only your personal preferences.

After we roast a batch in the evening, I can hardly wait to get up the next morning and open the jar of beans and stick my nose right in and inhale deeply.  Ahhh, now I know what fresh roasted coffee truly is... nirvana.

 

 

Home Roasted Coffee

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Take about 1/3 pound of green coffee beans and spread them out evenly on a perforated cookie sheet.  Every two minutes quickly stir so as to promote an even roast.  At first things move along slowly but towards the end of the roasting process things happen quickly so it is very important to stay right there with the beans.  At approximately 11 minutes into the process (depending on the bean) listen for the "first crack."  It is a popping sound that the beans make that is not quite as loud as popcorn popping.  Your roasting time will vary depending on your oven, the desired roast, and the bean.  We like to pull ours out at approximately 15 - 16 minutes and somewhere before the "second crack."  If you hear the second crack you are into a darker roast or a "full city plus" roast.  Pour the roasted beans into a colander to cool and swirl them around to help them cool quickly as they will continue to cook.  The beans will not smell like the fragrant coffee at this point, not to worry it has to rest for You will see lots of chaff flaking off the coffee beans.  Just blow on the beans to help rid them of this.  Let your beans cool completely.  Store coffee in an airtight glass jar after a few hours.  It needs to vent off the CO2.  Wait 12 to 24 hours for the coffee to attain its peak.  

 

If you'd like to leave a comment, I'd love to hear what you have to say.... click here.

Thursday
Aug162012

Relaxed and renewed from the land of great food and beautiful front porches... (part 1)

 

We recently returned from our family's annual trek to the lake cottage in northern Michigan.  As always, I returned home completely rejuvenated by the fresh clean pine scented air, the cool blue lake and a creaky old cottage.  These lovely memories will play over in my mind during the winter when a mental break is needed.   I'll close my eyes and recall the many fun porch parties with family and friends, the delicious food and wine that we consumed, and the natural beauty of northern Michigan, the land of inviting front porches...

 

 

 

My sister and brother-in-law, the newlyweds, enjoyed a sunset together on the lake front.  As the sinking sun melts into the horizon, it also melts away ones cares if you are still and quiet enough to let it.

 


 

Our northern Michigan friends love good food as much as we do and our dinner parties are always so memorable.  Keeping it simple, everyone usually brings their best dish and we always swap recipes after.

 


 

 

One of the newer traditions is our annual "Cottage Crawl."  It is a combination of a pub crawl, progressive dinner, and history lesson.  We all travel from cottage to cottage with the appetisers at two cottages, main course at two cottages and finally, dessert at the last two cottages.  Each cottage owner supplies a signature beverage and gives us a brief but rich history lesson of their family cottage.  Many of the cottages are up to 125 years old and most have been in the same family for generations.  As we rounded the corner heading for cottage #3, Robin surprised us with "Jello shots" arranged as old time lemonade stand. Brilliant!

 

 

You may remember from last year that my family makes an annual pilgrimage to Mackinac Island, the charming island void completely of cars but filled with the only modes of transportation...horses and bikes.  The excitement builds as we take an early morning ferry to the island, while debating the best place for coffee and lunch.  

 


Our first stop is always the tiny postage stamp sized coffee house out on a dock with a gorgeous view of the water and sailboats...

 


My husband enjoys his coffee, anticipating a glorious morning of biking around the island. 

 

 

(Note to self...stay on the outer perimeter of the island while on a bike.  If you turn into the center of the island you are doomed to steep hills but rewarded with great beauty.)

 

 

We are back at home gently sliding into our daily routines as school will begin again next week for our kids.  I'm so grateful for our time of summer rejuvenation in northern Michigan and I now feel ready and able to approach this new season with purpose, creativity and love.

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Where is your place of renewal?  I'd love to hear your comments... please click here