Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year, New Direction

So we meet again. One final time before the year comes to a close. Hopefully, you've been way too busy with your own holiday festivities to notice that I only just now posted recipes for all the promised goodies. Time got away from me. Deadlines proved to be a little more daunting and unreachable, and Christmas itself was a bit more difficult to deal with than I had originally anticipated. Surely you understand. Surely these candy treats will prove to be worthy of Valentine giving when the time rolls around and commercial chocolates abound. Surely?

I'm also sort of hoping that you are full to the brim, and can't bear to cook another dish, more less eat one for at least a week because, a las, I have no recipe for you today, nor is there a Foodie Find.

What I do have for you though is a glimpse of the future, well, at least the future around here. Things to come, things in the works, things already in place, things you will notice begin to take shape come January 1. Below you will find a brief run down:

1.) A Printer-Friendly Recipe Index is being added, should you want to cook what we discuss here, minus all my blabber.

2.) A new weekly feature: Ingredient Spotlight is slated to post on Tuesdays. These will feature a given ingredient, such as curry powder or celeriac for example, and we will explore all the glory of said item and perhaps share a recipe or two to put it to use.

3.) Comments have been enabled. You are still welcome to email me your thoughts, suggestions, and comments directly, but you will now have the option to post them directly onto the site.

4.) A link to my Flickr photostream will be added so you can check out my new year of experiences and may even be inspired to have some adventures of your own.

5.) A link to my Etsy store will be added so you can help me pay my rent, and have cute kitchen decor. I see it as a win/win situation.

6.) A Cheftionary is being added for quick referencing unfamiliar cooking terms, kitchen equipment, and ingredients.

7.) An About the Author section is being added so you can keep up with whom, what, and where I am involved with, how, and when.

As usual, we will continue our weekly discussions on the featured recipes and Foodie Finds, and you are always welcome to shop in the Le Cordon Vert Amazon Store (new items are added all the time).

Thank you again for supporting this site, for all your emails and comments, and for sharing the days of this past year with me. I look forward to all the forthcoming changes and upgrades, as well as spending the next year with you.

May our new year be filled with tasty dishes, beautiful experiences, and exciting adventures.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Dark Chocolate Candy Cane Fudge

Loosely adapted from the ever popular Fantasy Fudge recipe, created selfishly for my own pleasure. I have posted it as tested--next time I will most likely omit the crushed candies. I didn't care for the texture all that much, and the peppermint flavoring was overwhelming at times. It was the last fudge "creation" I attempted, so my lack-luster view of the outcome may be due to fudge overload--to which I am also attributing the lack of photo. I'm a purist when it comes to fudge, and don't really enjoy hidden bits or crunchies hanging out in it--whether it be candy, nuts, or whatever else happens to find its way in there. So that's working against it as well. At any rate, the recipe is below. I think it needs work. If you have any ideas, I'm all ears.

3 cups vegan-processed granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
8oz. Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
4oz. Ghirardelli Mint Bliss Chocolate Squares, coarsely chopped
1 jar (7oz) marshmallow cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup crushed peppermint candies (starlight mints were used in testing)
pinch of salt

Combine sugar, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed, medium-size saucepan (2 or 3 quart). Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips and chopped chocolate until melted. Add marshmallow cream and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Fold in crushed peppermint candies. Pour into a parchment-lined 13x9 inch pan. Allow to cool at room temperature. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 3lbs. of candy

Cafe Mocha Fudge

Loosely adapted from the ever popular Fantasy Fudge recipe, created selfishly for my own pleasure. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

3 cups vegan-processed granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 pkg. Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 jar (7oz) marshmallow cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1oz. prepared, chilled espresso (or 1 Jazzy Bird frozen espresso shot, thawed)
pinch of salt

Combine sugar, butter, espresso, and salt in a heavy-bottomed, medium-size saucepan (2 or 3 quart). Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add marshmallow cream and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pour into a parchment-lined 13x9 inch pan. Allow to cool at room temperature. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container.Makes 3lbs. of candy

White Chccolate Macadamia Nut Fudge

Loosely adapted from the ever popular Fantasy Fudge recipe, created for one of my favorite Kra (+e)mers.

3 cups vegan-processed granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 pkg. Ghirardelli White Chocolate Chips
1 jar (7oz) marshmallow cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
pinch of salt

Combine sugar, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed, medium-size saucepan (2 or 3 quart). Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add marshmallow cream,vanilla, and almond extract. Beat until well blended. Fold in macadamia nuts. Pour into a parchment-lined 13x9 inch pan. Allow to cool at room temperature. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container.Makes 3lbs. of candy

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Place holder

Recipes are coming!

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Fudge
Cafe Mocha Fudge
Butter Cookies

Spicy Molasses Crinkles
Chocolate Dipped Apricot Surprises
Lucy's Reindeer Patties

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Foodie Find of the Week: Ball Seriously Dropped

Friends, I apologize.

I know you came here today looking for a Foodie Find, but the truth of the matter is: I don't have one for you. I've been so busy with all this holiday baking that I simply have not had the time to test, retest, and recommend anything for you this week. I am ashamed.

Will you take a peace offering instead, to the tune of chocolate and a link to the best meat-alternative product around??

Yes? I was so hoping you'd say that. Great...then on we go!

Here is the link and you will find the recipe for Fantasy Fudge below.

By the way, I have tried the meatballs, the ground crumbles, the roast turkey, the breaded chicken patties, and the naked chicken tenders and none have been disappointing. The best part is, they are soy-free, so there's no weird aftertaste or texture. I know you'll love them. So far, the only place I've been able to find Quorn is at Whole Foods, but if you see it somewhere else, let me know.


happy holly-days, and keep checking in for tasty baked good recipes :)

Fantasy Fudge

This comes straight from the Kraft Marshmallow Cream jar. The marshmallow cream, to my current knowledge and at the time of this post, is vegan.

Enjoy :-)

Of course I made a couple tweaks, you know me.

Fantasy Fudge:

3 cups vegan-processed granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 pkg. Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 jar (7oz) marshmallow cream
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt

Combine sugar, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed, medium-size saucepan (2 or 3 quart). Bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat.

Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add marshmallow cream and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Pour into a parchment-lined 13x9 inch pan.

Allow to cool at room temperature. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 3lbs. of candy

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Point of it All

Holidays within holidays. A city trademark and possibly the one of the best parts of growing up in New Orleans. While the rest of the country is celebrating a general holiday season, we seem to take it one step further, creating events within the season to mark pinnacle moments…caroling in Jackson Square, a Celebration in the Oaks preview party, bonfires outside of the city limits, and perhaps the most iconic of them all, Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at the St. Louis Cathedral and  Reveillon dinner that follows.

Midnight mass at the Cathedral is something to behold, even if you are not Catholic. The warm glow of the candles, the heady spiced incense, and patrons dressed in their fanciest attire fresh from Christmas parties joining in the choral responses to the Profession of Faith and Extensions of Peace are all very intoxicating. For 45 minutes, everything is right in the world and Christmas has finally sunk in. It's almost a shame they don't hold the mass at the start of the holiday season, because up until that point it never really seems like Christmas to me. Then again, maybe that's the whole point.

After the mass comes to a close, feasting begins. The French call it Reveillon. The Italians, The Feast of Seven Fishes. Generally speaking, the concept of both is the same. Traditionally, Catholic followers fast the day before Christmas. Reveillon or Feast of the Seven Fishes is the breaking of that fast, and the celebration of the joy and renewal that the Birth is said to bring. Menu options can range from fancy egg dishes to bourbon laced cookies, broiled fish to grillades, or from turtle soup to raw oysters on the half shell. Of course in New Orleans, you are likely to get them all in one sitting.

My first official offering to you this holiday season is a reflection of my favorite holiday tradition. It’s sort of like a hippy-dippy granola orb, only the oats have been left out, and it’s been soaked in Southern Comfort, dredged in powdered sugar and enrobed in dark chocolate. It’s kind of fruit-cakey and a touch spicy. The hard dark chocolate shell, once broken, gives way to a cornucopia of dried fruits and nuts, bright citrus notes from the candied orange peel we made just days ago, and the tingle of Southern Comfort and warm spices. Truth be told, this is not a candy for children. Some would even say it is an acquired taste—(I know, the scarlet letter of all things culinary). For me though, its just not Christmas without a midnight mass and some alcohol-laced chocolates. With that said and without further adieu, let's get to the point of it all: the recipe for the Reveillon Truffles.

Happy holly-days

p.s.--Apricot Surprises, Molasses Crinkles, Fantasy Fudge, and Toasted Pecan Bark are all set to be posted this week, and more recipes are being tested as we speak, so keep checking back :-)

Reveillon Truffles

Reveillon Truffles:

1/2 cup pistachios, finely ground
1/2 cup pecans, finely ground1 1/2 cups walnuts, finely ground
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried Black Mission figs, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried Turkish Apricots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried Medjool dates, pitted, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 cup candied orange peel, finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 tablespoon apple juice
2 tablespoons Southern Comfort liqueur
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 (12oz) bag Ghiradelli Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
Organic powdered sugar for dredging.

Combine nuts and fruits in a large mixing bowl, tossing to evenly mix.  Add cinnamon, ginger and salt; toss again to evenly distribute.  Add Southern Comfort and apple juice and mix well, as you would for meatloaf, until thoroughly mixed.  Pinch off fruit mixture by 1 1/2 teaspoons and roll into balls.  Arrange balls in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and  set in a cool, dry place. Let set,  uncovered, for 24 hours.  

5 tablespoons apple juice
4 tablespoons Southern Comfort liqueur
1 tablespoon molasses (do not use blackstrap)

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Dip each ball into glaze mixture making sure to coat evenly and completely.  Arrange balls in a single layer on parchment lined baking sheet and set in a cool dry place.  Let set, uncovered, for 24 hours.  Reserve remaining glaze and store , refrigerated, in an airtight container.  Repeat process, then discard glaze.

On the third day, roll each cured ball into powdered sugar and shake off excess; set aside.  Melt chocolate chips over a double boiler until creamy and smooth.  Working quickly, dip each sugared ball into melted chocolate, making sure to coat completely and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  You may find it easier to use a teaspoon to do this.  Allow chocolate covered balls to set, about 8 hours or so, then dust with additional powdered sugar.   Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 5 dozen. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Candied Orange Peel

9 clementines or other small oranges
4 1/2 cups vegan sugar
1  cup water, plus more for blanching
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, strained for seeds and pulp
pinch of salt

Cut top and bottom off each orange. Peel each orange with a vegetable peeler and reserve rinds. Cut each orange in half and juice to get 1/2 cup of juice.  Strain juice and discard seeds and pulp.  Set juice aside.  Slice orange rind into thin strips about 1/4 inch thick.  

Place sliced rind in a medium saucepan and add enough water just to cover.  Heat over medium-high heat until boiling.  Drain rinds and repeat process 4 times.  Remove blanched rinds from saucepan.

Add sugar, orange juice, salt and 1 cup of water to the saucepan.  Whisk until sugar is completely dissolved over medium-low heat.  Bring mixture to a simmer, reduce heat and continue cooking for 10 minutes.  Add peels, return to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, over low heat at a gentle simmer.  To avoid crystals from forming, do not stir the pot.  If you must, gently swirl the pot around to move the peels while cooking.
When peels are finished cooking, pour syrup off into a resealable container and reserve for other uses.  Arrange peels in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, separate peels into individual slices and dredge in additional granulated sugar.  

Arrange dredged peels in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet, sprinkle with any remaining dredging sugar. Leave to further cool and cure, uncovered for 48 hours.  

Store in an airtight container with dredging sugar at room temperature.  

Makes about 2 cups.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fall In Line

Are you ready? The holiday season is upon us. Lights are being strung, trees are being planted in living rooms, carols are being sung, and as I type this...snow is predicted to fall in Louisiana sometime Thursday. Snow-- sent on cue to pit my new coat against the harsh elements of a normal winter—maybe I’ll even get to use my scarf. Snow!? The timing is perfect, and as they say, timing is everything.

The all-knowing, fail-proof wisdom of the universal clock has also bestowed upon me the duty of organizing the office Holiday Treat Swap. It’s of little consequence that this event has never before taken place, that this is its inaugural run, and also that I was drafted into it because “I’m crafty” and also happen to possess the “list-maker OCD gene” required to manage such a task. Never mind any of that. What’s important is just as I was tapping my fingers on the desk, scrambling for an idea for this week’s recipe post, viola! The idea dropped into my lap like a big, sloppy, wet, Louisiana snowball. It’s no secret that the holidays seem less appealing to me this year, sans mom, or that I was fully prepared to just skip it altogether, but... well, now I’m obligated to fall in line with everyone else and don the gay apparel, sip the eggnog, hang the stockings, and well, be merry. It’s just as well. I wouldn’t have made a proper Grinch; that shade of green never looked nice on me, and I doubt my pug could pull a sleigh's worth of anything, unless of course there were cookies dangling in front of her.

As organizer of the aforementioned swap, I feel obligated to contribute more than my share of the holiday goodies, and as a result copious amounts of organic powdered sugar and unbleached pastry flour will be flying around here for a good while. We will most likely be knee-deep in softened butter and cream cheese, perhaps even melted chocolate. But can you imagine a more glorious way to fight the disgusting, wet, freezing temperatures, or the sleet the news will no doubt be passing off as snow to get ratings, than wading in warm chocolate or diving into a box of warm spice cookies fresh from the oven? No, I didn’t think so. And so, it is with great holiday cheer and Iron Chef-like authority that I say unto you: let the holiday baking begin! Or at least it is with sincere obligation and hope that the Christmas Blues be washed away that I say unto you: fall in line and join in the Festivus with the rest of us. 

The first installment of this year's holiday baking festivities, I will admit is not that eventful, but you know,  some of us Who's need to be eased into the jingling of bells and hall decking...and it is for you, I present, are you ready???....taa...daa:  Candied Orange Peel.

I know what you're thinking..."Whoopee!  Ingredients? Thanks alot, Christy."

It's understandable. I almost NEVER make things I can easily buy at the store:  soymilk, nut butters, vanilla extract....who has the time, or in my case, the interest?  I'd rather make something "real".  Something I can actually eat without having to continue on with another recipe. Sometimes though, dear reader, you get what you pay for.  I have never EVER been satisfied with a pre-made candied orange peel I've purchased, and it just so happens that almost every holiday season I find myself in possession of way too many clementines than I am willing to eat, as they only seem to be sold by the case. Do you ever find yourself with such dilemma? The solution is pretty simple: make candied orange peel.  

It's the sort of activity that gently eases you into the holiday baking mode, and provides you with not only a nice addition to your grandma's fruit cake recipe (ick) or  your favorite shortbread recipe, but you also get these fine bonuses at no extra charge:
1.) It's completely edible as is.  Candied Orange Peel after all is candy.

2.) You will most likely have enough from one batch to last you pretty much all year, unless you are baking enough orange-scented shortbread to feed an army.

3.) The infused sugar syrup left over as a by-product of the candy making process can, and should be, saved and used to sweeten iced or hot tea, or as a replacement anywhere honey or agave nectar is called for.

4.) You can add "candy-making" to your culinary repertoire with minimal effort. 

5.) It's pretty and sparkles, like little chewy shards of snow-covered sunshine.

6.) It's vegan and all natural.  


7.) It's totally giftable: just put it in a nice jar with some sugar, tie a pretty ribbon around it, and presto, chango: you're Martha Stewart, with a better wardrobe.

That's a one hundred and twenty dollar value! Do you really need more reasons?  Well...what if I were to tell you there is a top-secret recipe calling for said peel on the brink of being completed that will soon be showing it's beautiful little face around here in a couple days?  Still not convinced?  Well, then, bah humbug I guess.  I have a sneaking suspicion you'll change your mind once the Reveillon Truffles appear, but by then you'll be two days out of pocket, seeing as there's a 48 hour curing window on the candied oranges, and then what will you do?  Best to start now, so fall in line

Happy Holly-days

Oh yeah... one more thing before I go:  the usual Thursday recipe posting schedule is hereby lifted until the holiday baking ceases.  New recipes will be posted every day or every other day so check back often for new goodies. :-)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Foodie Find of the Week: Lavender Fields Forever

DRY Soda: Lavender

It’s no secret that I am a proponent of all things lavender. The slightly sweet, herbaceous purple flower from Provence has found its way into many of my culinary endeavors, sneaking into shortbread or lemonade, hiding in a marinade, vinaigrette or iced tea, lurking in my mind as an ingredient for a sorbet, blueberry-lavender to be exact…which may reveal itself on this blog soon. It also makes regular appearances in the more traditional sense around my home by way of laundry detergent, lingerie drawer sachets, and my favorite: the aromatherapy/nebulizer contraption I scored from Whole Foods to “induce restful sleep and calm sense of well-being” (verbatim from the essential oil bottle).

It should come also as no surprise then that this week’s Foodie Find is laced in purple. In all honesty, DRY Soda has been around for awhile. I read reviews of it, searched for it tirelessly only to come up empty handed, and held the lucky bunch whom were actually able to get their hands on the prize in contempt for not sharing. For months I had been trying to get a handle on this stuff. Curiosity was killing the cat. It should probably be noted that the soda IS available online and can be shipped practically anywhere—in 12 bottle increments, which is wherein the hesitation lay. 12 bottles?! What if I didn’t like it? What if it was too sweet? What if…what if…what if?! What if I would have just ordered it when I first heard of its sweet existence? I could have been enjoying it all this time, instead of projecting gloom and disappointment onto something I had yet to try and had only heard good things of. Sometimes I have to wonder about myself, honestly.

Anyway...just Monday, in my favorite gourmet grocery (mainly because there’s free gourmet coffee to be had and classical music playing at all times, which makes me feel like I’m on one of those PBS cooking shows, shopping for whatever meal I’m about to prepare for you) there it was…all four flavors, or was it five…never the matter, I was only after the one: LAVENDER. Lavender soda, you say? Lavender soda, I say. I can imagine this stuff pouring out all of the fountains in heaven because it’s that good, and I had mine at room temperature, which is another little known, weirdo fact about me. I drink hot soda, for no good reason, and enjoy it as I did that day--partly because it wasn’t pre-chilled, and partly because I was anxious to get into it after months of waiting, and couldn’t be bothered to get a simple glass of ice. I guess it basically boils down to 1.) I’m spoiled, 2.) impatient and 3.) lazy. It's amazing the things a simple soda trip will teach you about yourself, isn't it? But enough about me, let's get back to the soda...

In addition to being deliciously refreshing with its crisp effervescent bubbles and it’s subtly sweet lavender finish, the bottle is simple and beautiful, which we have already established as a high-ranking factor for a majority of my purchases. As you know, I'm all about aesthetics. Its crystal clear minimalistic design gives nod to what lie inside: A sophisticated, slightly sweet, lightly flavored herbal soda with no artificial colors or flavors, that you have to try to believe. It’s like the ingestible equivalent of an early spring rain, a Vivaldi composition, or Monet’s Water Lilies. Drinkable elegance, an e-tonic, if you will.

Aside from the inherent calm-inducing properties of lavender, the soda also, quite frankly, just makes you feel pretty just by drinking it, or hell, even holding it. It’s like a spa trip for your insides. I’d like to believe I could replace the once-in-awhile Raw Food Cleanse torture I inflict upon myself with a couple bottles of this soda and all my wrong-doing will be magically erased. It sure feels like it could—all the little sparkling lavender bubbles scrubbing dutifully away at my dietary indiscretions, allowing me to exude a more youthful glow, without having to succumb to a full body exfoliation and/or 30 minutes in the sauna. Here’s hoping. (I should warn you: the package, nor the company makes any such claim…this is just my own wishful, delusional daydreaming.)

What the company does do though, may be even better—at least in my eyes. They use recyclable bottles and as many local sustainable ingredients as they can to produce the sodas, and practice “green” back-office policies (keeping printing to a minimum, recycling paper, re-using boxes, etc). They are in the process of developing a micro-lending program to help women entrepreneurs get their businesses going, and support as many local charities as they can. Cutting back and giving back, as Martha would say: they’re "good things".

So, where can you get your hands on the DRY goods? Well, your best bet will be a natural foods store or a high-end gourmet grocer. You may also have luck at a local wine or specialty beverage merchant. If you are having trouble locating it, you can always go to the DRY website and order a 12pk(available as a sampler pack or in single flavors), as I wish I had months ago. You know the old saying…If I’dve only known then what I know now…

As an added bonus: If you are ever in the Seattle area you can visit The Tasting Room, which is DRY’s version of modern day soda fountain. It’s modeled after a traditional winery tasting room and offers samples (in biodegradable cups) of all their flavors. You can purchase your favorites as singles, 4-packs, and 12pks, as well as t-shirts (also available on the website), onesies (for divas in training) and gift baskets (to lure your friends and family into the DRY soda addiction) from their Company Store. For more information on hours, location, event planning, and driving directions to both, visit the DRY website.

Another useful tidbit: the website has mixology chart that suggests appropriate mixers for the sodas and even provides recipes for a few cocktails. My lavender soda coincedentally goes excellent with gin. Gin?, you say. Gin, I say, nodding in smug approval. Super Score :-)


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Today's Menu

Good morning!

Today is a day of celebration. For what you ask? Well, today is the day the self-imposed horror, also known as the Raw Food Cleanse, ceases. Thank God. I couldn’t take it anymore. To be honest, it actually came to a close last night, by way of the Nocello Crema and some strawberries. I know what you’re thinking…”Strawberries are out of season! What are you doing?!”, which should be true seeing as it is December, but we’ve been having unseasonably warm weather down here (add that to the list of reasons for relocating) so they’re actually still thriving and are quite sweet…even in December. So you see, it was technically seasonal, and just so happened to be locally & organically grown…sustainable, and quite sustaining. How can you argue with chocolate, hazelnuts, and two types of cream cheese whipped in to a fluffy mousse-like frosting? It doesn’t get any better than that, unless you dunk some unseasonably sweet, locally & organically grown, ruby red strawberries with stems still attached into the creamy pool of whipped chocolate heaven. Prepare yourself for decadence unmatched.

You will also find the recipe for the winter salad (aka salade d'hiver) mentioned in last week’s Foodie Find. I will admit, there’s quite a bit of labor involved with shaving the root vegetables, but if you have a mandoline—something I am in desperate need of, you should be able to knock it out relatively quickly. I used a vegetable peeler, and it took an obscene amount of time, a chair and a glass of wine. I should caution you, at this point you’re probably thinking, well…I have a box grater, I can just use that. Which is logical, even plausible, but not practical. I thought the same thing, and it turned out horribly—producing nothing but pulp and juice from all exposed to it, no matter the blade attempted. The root shaving is the most laborious part of this composed salad, but don’t let it deter you—it’s well worth all the effort.

Some words on the ingredients:

Snofrisk is a goat’s milk cream-style cheese. It’s spreadable and mildly flavored. If you don’t dig on goat’s milk or goat cheese (shame!) I suppose it would work with regular whipped cream cheese, but don’t quote me on that because I haven’t tried it and well, regular cream cheese has its own flavor profile and you will lose the tartness.

Celery root, which is actually not the root from celery as one would think, is crunchy and firm in texture, and has a mild celery flavor. It is sometimes sold under the name celeriac. If you have trouble finding it, you can try substituting a parsnip or two, peeled of course. The beets add a beautiful bright magenta color (don't forget to wear gloves lest you end up with magenta hands!) and some earthy sweetness, while the radish lends a little peppery kick. The root chips are dressed in what shall from this day forth be known as Maison Vinaigrette, or simply put: my house vinaigrette.

That’s right. Christmas is the time of giving, and I am giving up my prized recipe. Guard it with your life, or at least write it down. I may have second thoughts and pull the post…just kidding. I use this vinaigrette on just about every salad I make, whether it is just a bowl full of mixed lettuce, or some sliced cucumbers, or an elegant composed salad, such as this. Clementines were used in place of the satsumas for this recipe because that’s what I had on hand, but really any small orange will work. White balsamic vinegar can be found at most supermarkets, I prefer the Alessi brand, but get what works for you. A wide-mouthed jar with a tight fitting lid (like this one) will make your vinaigrette building life much easier…just dump all the ingredients in, close it up, and shake. Not only do you not have to whisk it, but there’s no need to transfer it to another container and dirty more dishes. I’m all about conserving. ;-)

The crowning jewel of the salad is the crispy goat cheese disc that is perched atop the bitter, brightly dressed greens and the sweet root mélange. I used a combination of ground pecans and Panko crumbs for the coating, which produced a light, crispy crust, with just a hint of nuttiness. It complements the citrus-shallot infused oozey cheese in the center very well. All in all it was the perfect dinner salad.

I had every intention of serving this with some Grilled Truffle Toast, but I ran out of steam and interest with all the root shaving sans mandoline. If you have time, it’s quite simple to prepare…slice some baguette, slather on some Black Truffle Butter, and toast on both sides in a hot grill pan or place under the broiler for a few minutes. It should take this meal over the top.

I had all of this to celebrate the coming of the first Beaujolais Nouveau , an event I look forward to all year, and coincidentally marks the official coming of Fall for me--weather or no weather. If you haven’t had any yet, you are missing out. It’s a light and fruity red wine that is one of those “here today, gone tomorrow” seasonal things that you need to jump on while it’s hot. One of my favorite wines, seasonal, and yes it gets even better…the vineyards are going green this year with the bottles—plastic, since the Beau is meant to be consumed during the season and not put up in a cellar. So what are you waiting for? Go get some and increase your blood alcohol levels, while decreasing your carbon footprint! Oh, and try these recipes!


Maison Vinaigrette

maison vinaigrette

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Satsuma juice
1 tablespoon grated shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Louisiana Hot Sauce ™ to taste
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar and shake to combine. The vinaigrette can also be prepared in a medium-size mixing bowl using a whisk to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about ½ cup

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Salade d'hiver

salade d’hiver

2 green apples, peeled and shaved
1/2 of a celery root, peeled and shaved
1-2 large beets, peeled and shaved
8 radishes, shaved
2 cups rocket (arugula)
2 cups watercress
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Louisiana Hot Sauce ™ to taste
8 ounces goatmilk cream cheese, preferably Snofrisk™
2 shallots, peeled and diced
Zest from 2 clementines, satsumas or small oranges
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup panko crumbs
¼ cup ground pecans
½ cup prepared Maison Vinaigrette (see recipe index)

In a medium mixing bowl, toss beets, apple, and celery root with vinaigrette. Set aside.
Melt ½ the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne and a few drops of hot sauce. Allow the sugar/butter mixture to melt. When it starts to bubble, add pecans and toss to coat evenly. Cook over medium heat for approximately 1 minute. Remove from pan and allow to cool on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.
Break up goat cheese and incorporate the diced shallots and zest into the goat cheese. Season to taste with fresh pepper. Form goat cheese mixture into 8 small equal-sized patties.
In a small bowl or shallow pan, combine the panko and ground pecans. Coat goat cheese discs with flour, then dip them into lightly beaten egg, and then dip them into panko bread crumbs until coated completely.

Add olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the goat cheese discs and cook for two minutes on each side or until golden brown and crispy on the surface.

To assemble salad: In a large mixing bowl, dress the greens with vinaigrette. Arrange salad components in the following order distributing evenly among 4 chilled plates: dressed greens, chilled beet mixture, 2 warm cheese disc, toasted pecans. Serve immediately and enjoy.
Serves 4.

Nocello Crema

Nocello Crema:

1/4 cup Creole cream cheese, stirred to combine cream and curds
2 heaping tablespoons Mascarpone cheese
6 heaping tablespoons Nocello, or other chocolate hazelnut spread

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Makes about 3/4 cup.

The crema can be served plain as you would a pudding, or as a dip for fruit, cookies, cake, or anything else you desire. Strawberries and pound cake cubes are especially delicious. It just occurred to me that this would also probably make a nice cake filling.

Foodie Find of the Week: Nocello

I can't in good faith recommend anything I have tried this week being in the throws of a raw food cleanse...aloe juice, even cranberry-pomegranate (perhaps that's where I went wrong?)is frankly quite nasty and has to be taken just like a shot of whiskey, although I am quite certain whiskey shots taste better. Nor can I recommend the detox tea that I bought solely based on its name, which tastes like all the poisons that will allegedly be whisked away from imbibing the dreadful liquid. Both were and continue to be very medicinal and not at all pleasant. One more day. I can do it.

What I have for you this week, is another "find" I've been sitting on for awhile. I know...I know...I'm selfish and I seem to be keeping the best things for

At any rate here it is:

Nocello. I'm sure everyone has heard of Nutella, the deliciously decadent chocolate hazelnut spread sent to us by way of our Canadian neighbors. But have you had the Italian "Real-Deal-Holyfield" version? It is on another level of deliciousness. It has a creamier texture and the hazelnut flavor is more pronounced. It's also imported from Europe and has a nice label which are two irrelevant qualities I tend to like in processed foods. Think of it as Nutella's more sophisticated Italian cousin who has flown in for the holidays to brighten your spirits and spread its chocolately-hazelnut cheer all around.
It's great smeared on just about everything...strawberries, pound cake, shortbread cookies, bananas, melted over ice cream, your finger...whatever floats your gondola. I had the idea of melting it and adding it to milk to make chocolate milk, but it seemed like too much trouble at the time (spoon already perched in hand, ready to dive in and eat it directly from the jar) or possibly substituting it in place of peanut butter in some cookies, but I never followed through with that either...if you have more restraint than I, and manage to get it done, let me know how it turns out. I'm happy just eating mine in front of the fridge at the moment.
Nocello is a little harder to track down than Nutella, but it's worth the hunt and the extra dollar or two.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Run, Fast.

This seemingly goes against everything this site advocates. But in truth, it's a necessary part of life. Occasionally, actually quite often, hedonistic behavior--even high quality, organic gastronomical hedonism, leads to a life of excess. Excess isn't necessarily bad, it's just more than necessary. When you have more than necessary of any one thing inevitably it will start to linger around, and if you leave it long enough, it will become rancid.

That's how I've been feeling for the last few days...possibly because I dove off the deep end of the dairy pool when I decided to add the moo juice back to my diet, instead of easing back into the shallow end one toe at a time, inch by inch until I slowly became accustomed to my new unfamiliar surroundings. Possibly also because Thanksgiving just reared it's gluttonist head and even though I said I was skipping it, as I was not particulary in the mood to celebrate "my first official holiday without my mother" as so many people thoughtfully pointed out, I proceeded to make a ridiculously large meal. I was out of concern, and I don't fault them, really I don't. It's just like when you cut yourself, and don't realize you're bleeding or that you've even cut yourself, and then someone points it out and suddenly it's the worst pain you've ever felt, you think you may need medical attention, and possibly some ice cream to ease the trauma. You don't realize you're hurt, and then some one points it out and suddenly you feel like you could possibly be crippled. That's how it was. But I digress...the moral of this poorly pointed story is simply this: my diet lately has been piss poor and heavy on the dairy. Making up for lost time, lost cheese, lost butter...a lost mother. Call it what you will. A remedy is on the way.

I hate to do this to you right before another stab at the holidays, but I feel it is necessary. Cue the dramatic, ominious music....dum, dum, dum. A Raw Food Cleanse. I don't anticipate this lasting for all that long, maybe just two or three days tops. But be aware, the foodie find this week may very well be some off-the-wall juice blend or supplement such as aloe juice, or something equally unappealing to the hedonistic palate you're accustomed to. The recipe may very well be some sort of fruit salad or raw vegetable compliation. I do not anticipate getting so far into this as to start looking for actual "raw food" recipes because I don't particulary enjoy that type of thing. Zucchini masked as spaghetti covered with a raw tomato marinara sauce...cashew cheese and dehydrated carrot and walnutmeal crackers.....cold fruit soups....none of that stuff appeals to me. I will presumably be sticking to salads, crudites, fruit smoothies, juice blends...that type of stuff. You know the sort of food that says "I'm fasting/cleansing/redeeming myself for bad behavior", not the sort of stuff that says "this is my lifestyle...I've adapted to pretending vegetables are pasta and dehydrated bark is flatbread"

My apologies in advance. If you want to skip this week, I will more than understand. I'd actually like to skip this week myself.

until next time,


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Foodie Find of the Week: Jazzy Bird

I know right? Two Foodie Finds in one week, give or take a day or two...It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, isn't it? Actually, truth be told, I've been sitting on this one for a while now...for like 8 months or so...I know, horrible. But, I'm sharing now so that has to count for something, yes?

I opened my last box of these little guys today, and felt compelled to share. Normally I'm a coffee and chicory kinda girl, assuming I'm making coffee at home and not spending retarded amounts of money for it in the streets ( which happens quite frequently, the latter I mean). I spotted these at a food show some many months back and had half a case of sample product bestowed upon me a few months later. What is it, you ask? Well here's the big reveal: Jazzy Bird Frozen Espresso Shots.
I know what you are probably thinking: frozen espresso?? how good can that be? Hardly a foodie find. Indeed, you'd be wrong. I thought the very same thing. But the correct thought would be this: frozen espresso shots? genius! Perfect for say Dark Chocolate Espresso Brownies or Affagado--when your goal is something much greater than a beverage, and you have no interest in firing up, or more importantly, cleaning an espresso machine to make it yourself. This is for those just pop it out of its little container, zap it in the microwave for 2 minutes, and viola! It's done. You're done, and the only thing to wash is the measuring cup you warmed it in. Ahh yes...genius.

By the by, they are also great as part of a Cappuccino or Cafe Americano, or any other fancy-pants coffee drink you want to whip up in your kitchen. They are only available by the case unless you live in, or around, the New Orleans metro area, which could be considered a minus, but just think of all the espresso-laden concoctions you can make with a whole case...and in all honesty, I tore through my half a case in record time.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Foodie Find of the Week: Snofrisk

I know, I's been forever since I did a Foodie Find of the Week. I have tried, I promise. It's just that all the products I tested fell short of what I would consider to be a "find". Some of them actually made me consider doing a "Run From This As Fast As You Can" weekly post. Last night,though, I found this. I have to confess: it was in an effort to avoid a step in the recipe I was developing for a Winter Salad (to be disclosed sometime in the near future). The crowning glory for my salad was to be a lightly breaded, crispy on the outside, creamy and oozy on the inside goat cheese disc. When planning out the recipe I initially decided that the way to achieve the oozy mild taste and texture of warm cream cheese was to obviously add...cream cheese. Well, half way through my market stop, I began to wonder if there was a such thing as goatmilk cream cheese, after all there's goat milk...goat butter...goatmilk ice cream, and if you're lucky to have a fully stocked market, goatmilk yogurt...shouldn't there be cream cheese, logically speaking I mean? I wonder this type of thing alot, mostly about cheese, and mostly because prior to my fall from grace as a vegan, I had forgone the cheese and my knowledge of the matter has significantly diminished. Anyways..after a little digging at Whole Foods, I can answer with authority. Yes, there should be and there is. Mission accomplished, so I took it home--two packages actually, partly because they were 4oz each and my concieved recipe called for 8oz, and mostly because they were "buy one, get one free". Score.

I was a little skeptical right off, as I usually am of products I wish existed and then magically land in my little fingers moments later. However, upon tasting the Snofrisk, all my skepticism was erased. It's creamy, mild, spreadable, and maintains the tartness of a good chevre. Perfection. It's sort of the Laughing Cow of Goat Cheese I even comes in a triangular container, larger of course than a wedge of Laughing Cow, but still...there's a resemblance. Come to think of it, it sort of resembles the flavor as well...only tinged with goat cheese and with the texture of really good cream cheese...or Creole Cream Cheese, yes, yes...that's it...creole cream cheese, only slightly thicker, and made from goat's milk. Super Score.

Go get some, you'll need two containers for the forthcoming Winter Salad recipe.
I guarantee you won't regret it.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Simply Delicious (v)--Roasted Fingerling Nuggets

I know...potatoes. How boring. How simple. How non-hedonistic.
Well, I'm sorry. I had intended on regailing you with tales of a delicious feast composed of the best vegetarian meat loaf you'd ever had, stewed kale with cipollini onions, roasted fingerling nuggets, a mixed herb salad with my house vinaigrette (even though I am still apprehensive about giving up my "secret" recipe) and a caramel apple tart finished with fleur de sel. However, the meatloaf was mushy, although it could be due to the fact that I pan-fried it instead of baking it because I was short on time. It was also a little too salty for my taste. The stewed kale with cipollini onions was decent, but lacking something still undetermined. Possibly tomatoes? We shall see. As for the mixed herb salad, it was pretty generic as far as salads go, and I think I need to add the herbs a little more aggressively--it turned out to be only slightly more herbaceous than say...grass. The vinaigrette is still under wraps, I'm having issues with letting it go. The apple tart had more of a run-of-the-mill apple pie taste and was sort of "fast-foody" texture-wise, rather than the sticky caramel apple wrapped in buttery pastry I had imagined. It was also, by the way, a complete waste of fleur de sel. Back to the drawing board I suppose. Hopefully, when we revisit them post-makeover they will be shiny new versions of their former selves ready to take on the world, and your palate. Until then, I have this to offer you, perfectly roasted, little golden brown nuggets of French Fingerling goodness. It's not rocket science, and it hardly requires a recipe, but sometimes people (like me) need to be reminded that some of the best food requires only a handful of (quality)ingredients and minimal preparation.

Roasted Fingerling Potato Nuggets
10-12 fingerling potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and sliced into 1" rounds
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400F. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to evenly coat all potato nuggets. Arrange potatoes cut side down in a single layer on a large cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring potatoes halfway through the cooking time.

Serves about 8, generously; 10-12 reasonably.

Just a thought: you could scoop the flesh out of each nugget somewhat after baking and mix it in a bowl with some sour cream, a little chives, salt, pepper, maybe some cheese (vegan or regular), possibly some bac-uns...and then pipe it back into the shells for a hors d'oeuvre type snack. Just a thought though, I haven't tried it. If you do, let me know how it turns out.

happy eating,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Confessions of Vegan Chef: Mac and Cheese (v)

I have a confession... I don’t mean to sound arrogant or be boastful, but I know my way around the kitchen. I’ve been “classically trained in the culinary arts”, so it’s not very often that this type of thing happens to me. But every now and again, I have a moment so unbelievably ridiculous that I have to doubt my own abilities as a chef. I was reminded of such an event just yesterday.

It was late yesterday evening and I was searching for something [already] cold to drink (I can’t be bothered to make ice or fill the ice trays—a quality you would think would prompt me to get an ice maker, but the twenty five dollars extra seemed extravagant, which is funny in and of itself because I had just paid about 12 dollars for some salt, go figure..anyways…). In the midst of my search for refreshment and instant gratification, I happened upon a white Corning Ware casserole dish, the contents of which I only vaguely remembered until I peered inside. It was the vegan mac and cheese I had made, or correction...attempted to make, a few weeks prior. That’s right, a few weeks prior—yet another thing I can’t be bothered to do…clean out the refrigerator with consistency. ( Perhaps I should hire a maid and then she can clean out the refrigerator erasing my culinary mishaps, forgotten produce, and poorly chosen micro-brews and keep me in the way of ice and clean dishes…) was supposed to be a thing of beauty—the mac and cheese I mean, and it was on track to be such, until the mishap. Ahh… the mishap. I think we should start at the beginning of the macaroni mess for you to fully appreciate the pricelessness of the outcome. One dreary, cold day a few weeks back I was convinced Fall was upon me and I decided to make macaroni and cheese to celebrate--not just any mac and cheese though, my favorite mac and cheese. The kind of mac and cheese that starts out with a dreamy bechamel sauce and ends up in a casserole dish full of cheesey-bubbly goodness topped with crunchy herbaceous breadcrumbs. There was just one problem…the recipe was for traditionally made mac and I was unconventionally vegan at the time. What’s a girl to do? Well…this girl decided to veganize the recipe.

It started out with a trip to Whole Foods which ended in a $45 tab (this is just an estimate because all of my “I’m just running in for a couple things” ventures into Whole Foods seem to cost upwards of $45). I cleaned out the vegan dairy department taking with me: 2 types of block cheese, plain unsweetened soymilk, plain soy cream, tofutti sour cream, and Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, not missing a pass at the bakery for some artisan pasta and fresh bread crumbs. On second thought it was probably more than $45 dollars… So, ingredients in tow I set off for my kitchen and prepared to build the ultimate vegan mac.

I started with the béchamel sauce…cooking the flour with the margarine, whisking in the milk until it was all incorporated and creamy. Then I added the "cheese", which by the way had to be grated. By hand. On a box grater. [ I’m not sure how many of you have actually attempted to grate vegan cheese on a box grater before, but the texture is all wrong for such an activity and requires a lot of patience (something I am not known for) and attention (another thing I’m not exactly known for). It took roughly a half hour, the grating I mean.] So in goes the cheese, a small amount at time, whisking furiously to incorporate it into the sauce. Vegan cheese is not known for its melting qualities and attempting to do so is on par with trying to dissolve honey in a glass of ice water, but somehow I managed to coax a block of vegan cheddar and a block of vegan jack cheese into the hot molten lava that was below me. It was very much an intenstive labor of love and desperation. You see up until that point every vegan mac I had had, tasted as such—blatantly vegan, barely passable for cheese, not at all creamy and luxurious, reeking of nutritional yeast and carrying the unpleasant fluorescent yellow hue of turmeric added too hastily and in too large a quantity. I was at the end of my rope.

Back the story..after I convinced the cheese to make friends with lava, I added a little Tofutti sour cream (for body and sharpness) along with some seasonings---a little salt, a dash of mustard powder, and fresh cracked black pepper. After about 30 minutes of vigorous sauce making, a few second-degree wrist burns from over-zealous lava bubbles, and stirring so much I could skip my upper body work-out and not feel guily, I tasted. It was surprisingly good. "Wow, this is good!" I exclaimed with glee even though I was alone in the kitchen and the only one there to possibly hear me was a basil plant I forget to water on a regular basis, which I'm sure ignored me, as I do it, just out of spite. At any rate I had created the near impossible and improbably--a cheese sauce completely passable for the real thing. Thick, creamy, sharp and no trace of nutritional yeast or the strange yellow cast of tumeric. It was just the white cheese sauce I was after. Success! Sweet success! I was so excited. So excited in fact, that I dumped the whole pot of sauce into the pasta pot which I had set to boil at the midpoint in my sauce making—before draining the pasta. Before. Draining. The. Pasta!

When I do it. I really do it big. Well over thirty painstaking minutes erecting the perfect vegan cheese sauce to destroy it with a pasta pot full of water! And it was perfect. It could probably do on its own as a fondue with some bread. It was that good, and that’s saying a lot coming from me because I don’t take cheese lightly. I normally just forgo the vegan cheese altogether because of the ultimate disappointment and insult it poses to real cheese. Nevertheless I carried on with the recipe, hoping all was not lost. I piled it into the casserole dish I had rubbed with garlic and margarine, topped it the entire mess with the fresh artisanly-made breadcrumbs, dotting the top with some leftover Maitre d’hotel butter I had from an earlier meal and set it in the oven to bake, wishing and hoping it would recompose itself as the dish it was meant to be. Long story long, it did not. We ate it anyway because at that point I had invested well over $50 dollars into the project and I’d say a good hour and half of time, energy and effort and I was damned if it was going in the garbage. Truth be told, the end result wasn’t half bad and was still edible for the most part. It just wasn’t the glorious masterpiece I had composed or envisioned. So the recipe for the intended end product follows. My vegan readers will be pleased I think…three days into my conversion and given the opportunity to post a mac and cheese recipe, it ends up being a tasty vegan one :-) All hope isn’t lost on me yet! Lol

A word of caution though: don’t get so excited with the sauce that you dump it right into the pasta water. It’s heartbreaking, still edible, but heartbreaking. :-)

Vegan Mac and Cheese:

kosher salt and olive oil for pasta water
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1lb elbow macaroni
1 quart plain unsweetened soymilk
8 tablespoons vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1/2 cup flour
1 block vegan cheddar style cheese, grated
1 block vegan Monterey Jack style cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 cup soy sour cream, such as Tofutti Better than Sour Cream
a few cloves of garlic, cut in half
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs
3 tbsp. Maitre d'hotel butter (see recipe index), melted

Preheat oven to 375F . Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for macaroni. Add macaroni and a small amount of olive oil and proceed to cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain well, do not rinse.
Meanwhile, heat the soymilk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; do not allow it to boil. Melt 6 tablespoons of vegan margarine in another large saucepan. Add the flour to the melted margarine and whisk to incorporate. Whisk warm milk into flour-margarine mixture and cook for about 5 minutes, whisking continuously, until thickened and smooth. Reduce heat to very low and whisk cheeses in a small amount at a time, making sure each addition is completely incorporated before adding the next. Season with 2 tablespoons of salt (or to taste), pepper, nutmeg and mustard powder, whisking to completely incorporate. Fold in sour cream. Add drained macaroni and stir well. Rub a 3-quart casserole dish with cut garlic and remaining 2 tablespoons margarine. Pour macaroni in casserole dish. Combine melted Maitre d'hotel butter with breadcrumbs, and sprinkle them evenly over the top. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are browned.

Serves about 8.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Easiest Pear Tart in the World (v)

Want a homemade dessert with very little effort?  Well, if you've got a pear or two, a box of puff pastry, some brown sugar, and a little salt laying around... your wish is granted.  This has to be the easiest recipe around, but it doesn't compromise on flavor.  Flaky, buttery layers of puff pastry, soft oven-roasted pears, and an ever so slightly salted caramel-y brown sugar topping will leave you fully satisfied, and with enough energy to run it off once your done, if you're into that kind of thing.  I prefer a side of vanilla ice cream these days, but if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times, do what suits you.  These tarts are also great the next morning as sort of an upscale pop-tart with some Cafe Americano, if you have a couple left over like me.

You will need:

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry dough, thawed to package directions
1 or 2 pears depending on size, peeled and sliced into 1/4'' thick slices (approximately)
2 to 3 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used fleur de sel, but use what you have)

Preheat your oven according to the puff pastry package directions.  To prepare puff pastry you will need to dock both sides (prick it with a fork without puncturing all the way through to the other side).  This will keep it from rising.  Cut the puff pastry into 6 equal sized rectangles.  Arrange pear slices going down the center of each rectangle, overlapping the slices.  In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and salt.  Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over each tart.  At this point, you may wish to dot each tart with a small amount of butter or vegan margarine, but it isn't entirely necessary, especially if your pears are sufficiently juicy.  I opted out of the butter the last time I made this and didn't notice any significant change in taste.  Bake the tarts on a baking sheet in the preheated oven until pastry is golden brown and pears are soft and bubbly, about 20 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Makes 6


Capellini #9 with Roasted Garlic, Cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano

Just a note before you start:  given that there are exactly 6 ingredients ingredients in this dish--counting salt and pepper,  you should seek out the very best of each ingredient.  You know the rule, the fewer the ingredients you use, the better the quality of the ingredients you should use.   I actually subscribe to the school of "always use quality ingredients" as your dishes will be that much better--sometimes though the effects of Bush economics don't allow us to do that.  Save this one for when budget allows for the very best.

You will need:

1 large head of garlic, roasted, peeled and mashed into a paste (a fork works well for this, although I admit, I used a meat mallet)
1/2 package dried capellini #9, or your favorite pasta, boiled and drained, do not rinse
1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan heat the cream over low heat until very warm, but not bubbling.  Add the cheese and whisk until incorporated.  Once cheese is incorporated, add the mashed roasted garlic and whisk to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Toss with your favorite cooked pasta.  Sprinkle with additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and enjoy.  

This should make enough for 4, unless you want to eat it all yourself, which is highly probable.  I continued to eat it well after I was comfortably full, because I didn't want to stop tasting it.  But you know, do what suits you.  :-)

The Ten Commandments, plus one

So, I've denounced my vegansim, which after posting that last blog, I realized is the dietary equivalent of Catholism. I can say that because I've been both vegan and Catholic. There are some definite parallels, at least in my view. Both seem to be based on guilt, judgement and deprivation at their worst, but have the ability to be beautifully artistic and inspiring, given the right congregation of followers. In any case, just as I have done with the spiritual religion of my past, picking and choosing what I like from all denominations to suit my own needs (which is probably blasphemy, but I figure it's better to believe in a little of everything, than nothing at all)...I have done with my dietary religion of the future. So here are my ten commandents for the velvet ant-ified version of veganism--which isn't really veganism at all, but it's more strict than vegetarianism. I guess it's the Baptist version of veganism? lol. My apologies in advance to any and all Baptists, it was just joke, most likely a bad joke for which I will recieve tons and tons of nasty angry comments...or maybe not, I don't know that many Baptist vegans come to think of it. And if I do, well...use this as solace...I don't subscribe to any one religion so I'm probably going to hell

The Ten Commandments:

1.) Thou shalt not purchase or produce any new item of clothing, shoes, or jewelry made from animal products (to include but not limited to wool, silk, pearls, fur, cashmere).
2.) Thou shalt only use vegan sugar. Bone-char filtered regular sugar is nasty.
3.) Thou shalt only by cruelty-free cosmetics and household cleaners.
4.) Thou shalt never consume animal flesh, with the exception shrimp to be consumed only in New Orleans proper. Preferably in the French Quarter only. This is to include, but is not limited to: chicken, pork, beef, lamb, shellfish, fish, and squid.
5.) Thou shalt only purchase organic, hormone-free dairy products, and use a soy option when it suits.
6.) Thou shalt only purchase organic, hormone-free, cage-free/free-range eggs and use another alternative when it suits.
7.) Thou shalt only purchase extremely high quality cheeses.
8.) Thou shalt only purchase micro-brewed beers to avoid isinglass.
9.) Thou shalt commit to eating at least 3 vegan meals a week.
10.) Thou shalt avoid processed foods, artificial sweeteners, and any other unnatural ingredients at all costs.

And a bonus: Thou shalt revise this list whenever it becomes outdated or too limiting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Welcome Home

I've been doing some thinking lately. Examining my ideas. Remembering what makes me happy. Eliminating things that do not. Redefining my "label", in order to redefine my label (velvet ant). Refining myself if you will. There comes a point, I assume, in everyone's life when this has to happen, if not for the sake of growing your business, for the sake of growing in general...I suppose this is my time.

So on to the point...I decided in the throws of my re-emergence, re-inventation, re-alization if you will, that I do not particularly enjoy being a vegan...sure it has valid points, dairy is no good for you and it supports the hamburger industry, chickens are held up in pens and who wants to eat the ovarian discards of an animal that eats its own poop? Well...since you asked, I do. I also have an addiction to high quality cheese, real butter, and heavy cream. I'm of French-Italian descent, and I hail from a city known for its food--New Orleans--for crying out loud. I am hard-wired to lust after velvety cream sauces and pungent cheeses and breathe in the caramel-y scent of real butter browning in cast-iron pan as if it were Chanel No. 5, and wonder (seriously) if I could dab it on my wrists and neck and wear it as such. I gave veganism a whole-hearted effort...I tried all the soy cheeses on the market. I switched to coconut milk ice cream (it's the creamiest non-dairy substitute on the market). I've even gotten use to the taste of soy margarine, tofutti sour cream and cream cheese, and Veganaise. It all has its place in the diet I suppose. None of it, with the exception of some of the lesser quality vegan cheeses, are completely disgusting, and I think I might actually prefer the coconut milk ice cream to the original cow milk version...I think. But as much as I would love to sit here and try to convince you otherwise, as I have tried to to convince myself for the past year, you cannot truly replicate the taste of authentic dairy products. I think it is better to say after a year you will forget what real dairy tastes like and be able to fool yourself that you have the real thing. Truth be told-under no circumstances will vegan margarine produce an aroma with which you wish (say that 3 times fast!) to use as perfume, and the moment that original scent hits your sensory glands, you will instantly remember the original sin, at least that's my story. I am sure there are folks out there more committed to the cause than I, and that is fine, actually it's's just not right for me, at least not in my everyday diet. When a choice you make or made begins to feel like a self-induced punishment, it's time to take action to relieve yourself of the burden. I haven't yet dove into a pint of Ben & Jerry's Mint Chocolate Chunk to officially baptize myself as a full-fledged run-of-the-mill vegetarian and futher denounce my old vegan religion, but I think the meal that follows puts me on the cusp.

My affinity for dairy products mainly lies within the savory realm... most recently in the form of Capellini #9 with Roasted Garlic and Cream, adorned with freshly shaven Parm. The next time I do this, the capellini will most likely be replaced with Linguine Fini (a very thin, artisinal version of linguine) because well, I don't really enjoy capellini, or angel hair, or angel nests--or whatever you choose to call it. The roasted garlic cream sauce, however, that's the keeper. It's creamy and comforting with little bits of toasty sweet garlic and a hint of sharpness and salt from the Parm--the perfect balance of all things delicious, and perhaps one of the simplest sauces you can make aside from literally tossing the pasta in some olive oil and adding some crushed red pepper flakes (which is also tasty and vegan by the way). It literally takes 3 ingredients, give or take some salt and pepper, and less time to prepare than the pasta will to boil! Basically, you heat the cream over low heat, add the cheese, whisk until its melted and combined, then stir in the roasted garlic, which you've mashed beyond all recognition into a thick paste, season with salt and pepper and your sauce is done. At this point you can either spoon the sauce over or toss with your pasta, sprinkle the whole thing with some extra shavings of cheese and Finito! Dinner is served. I had this the night of my reawakening with a simple oak leaf salad dressed with my "house" vinaigrette and the easiest Pear Tart you will ever see. Call it my "welcome home" meal.

So with all that said, you're probably wondering what that means for you and this blog. Well, I can't imagine eating heavy cream, butter, and cheese everyday and maintaining any resemblance to a girlish figure, what with me in my thirties (!) now and being perched on top of the hill looking down the barrel of middle age, nor can I imagine having the energy to do all of the things on my "bucket list" should I gorge myself on such things, so for the most part, my new found freedom should have little to no effect on you. I will mark the vegan recipes with a (v), and if I use offensive ingredients I'll give you a vegan alternative, if one is available. For the most part, life around here will be more or less the same.

There will be no vegan alternatives for the pasta dish, out of respect for my new religion--freedom of choice and happiness. Viva la dairy! :) The Pear Tart, incindentally, is vegan...just out of habit, assuming you get a vegan puff pastry dough--Pepperidge Farm (to my knowledge at the moment) is vegan compliant and tasty. It's also the one I used for testing purposes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Foodie Find of the Week: Donna Hay Magazine

This may not be new. It may very well have been around for awhile. In fact it has, but I live in the South and well, you know how things are down here, slow and low, so I just discovered it. I'm instantly in love. Instantly. In. Love. The photography is gorgeous. The recipes are simple, but not basic. It's printed in Australia, written by cookbook author Donna Hay--hence the name. It's sort of like Martha Stewart--if Martha were chic, not cloyingly cutesy and utterly pretentious. It's the magazine I would write if I were to actually to do such a thing. Which is a thought in itself. In any case, go get a copy, if you don't already have it, and enjoy :-)


Monday, November 3, 2008

Indian Summer

It's November and, just as predicted, the current temperature is 80 degrees. It's predicted to be in the lower 80's through Thursday. I guess we weren't ready, and by "we" I mean the South, not me. I'm so ready, at least in theory. Truth be told, I haven't yet equipped myself with Fall attire, and don't see that project coming to a close in the foreseeable future. I am still searching for the perfect winter coat sans wool. I still have my summer clothes hanging in the closet. Hell, yesterday I wore shorts and sandals. I am in no way, shape, form or fashion prepared for the new weather. You'd think with as much as I have been complaining about the heat and wishing for Fall to arrive, I'd have all my ducks in a row. My ducks are still swimming in the pool, drinking lemonade, making one final attempt at a tan. And so it is with that I will leave you with this: my recipe for a Fiesta Bean Salad. It's a combination of hearty beans, sweet corn kernels, crispy bell peppers and onions tossed in a zesty dressing. You can eat it cold, as I have--right out of the bowl, standing in front of the refrigerator, at room temperature--perfect for a picnic, or rather still with tortilla chips as a bean salsa of sorts. It's versatile, filling, and requires no cooking--perfect for those days in November when you are too discouraged to cook and are completely certain the rest of the country is experiencing genuine Autumn weather, dressing in scarves and sweaters, watching leaves change color, and eating hearty, homey soups.

Fiesta Bean Salad:

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained well
1 can black eye peas, rinsed and drained well
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 orange bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 small jalepeno pper, seeded and minced
1 small bottle prepared Italian salad dressing
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 green onions, sliced thin, green part only

Combine all ingredients except green onions together in a large bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to blend flavors. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with green onion.

This can be used for a stand-alone bean salad, part of a composed tex-mex chef or cobb salad, as a sandwich filling, as an appetizer served with tortilla chips. You could also toss it with some cooked rice, a little shredded cheese and heat it up for an instant meal. Use it stuff burritos, tacos, or tamales. Add it to your scrambled eggs or tofu in the morning Add some tomato jucie or vegetable stock and turn it into a soup, topped with a little avocado and sour cream. The possibilities are practically endless, which is good because this makes alot. ALOT.