Category Archives: Recipes

Asparugus with Sauce Gribiche

Asparagus Lobster & Gribiche

What began as a quest for Chicken Chili ingredients last Sunday, turned into a lobster feast for two. I guess you could say that Brian and I celebrated Valentine’s Day a few days early this year. I have the scars to prove it. I managed to burn my hand on scalding water (my fault) and I also pierced my finger with one of the claws on our large lobster (the lobster’s fault). Breaking apart a lobster is a messy business, there’s no way around it. The sweet meat inside however, is worth the labor.

Asparagus with Gribiche

Thankfully, I managed to cook our asparagus without any unfortunate bodily harm. We served our asparagus with sauce gribiche. Sauce gribiche is possibly one of my favorite sauces of all time, although it is really more like a vinaigrette. It is a classic French sauce that is traditionally made with chopped eggs, cornichons, herbs, and capers.

Hard Boiled Eggs Gribiche

I first had sauce gribiche on our trip to France a few years ago at a well-known bistro in the 11th Arrondissement, Bistro Paul Bert. The sauce was served on beautifully steamed Spring Asparagus and I instantly fell in love. It’s tangy and lively, and it’s so simple to make at the last minute because you probably have most of the ingredients in your refrigerator or cupboard already.

The method is simple.  Whisk together shallot, vinegar (red, white, or sherry vinegar), good extra virgin olive oil, a touch of Dijon mustard, plenty of salt and freshly ground pepper (seasoning is key to a good vinaigrette). Then add chopped hard-boiled eggs and herbs (I enjoy parsley, tarragon, chives and chervil in this sauce). I did not use cornichons or capers in this version, but you could add those as well. And that’s it! I typically serve asparagus with sauce gribiche as a starter, but it can also be a simple side dish. And don’t stop there, because this sauce also goes well with fish and grilled meat.

Asparagus

Shallots

 

 

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Asparagus with Sauce Gribiche
Serves 4

  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (I probably used at least a 1/2 teaspoon of coarse kosher salt)
  • 2 large hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup of minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 pounds of fresh asparagus, woody ends cut off at the bottom

For the sauce:

  1. Place the shallot, vinegars, mustard and olive oil in a small mixing bowl and whisk well until the mixture is emulsified.
  2. Add salt and pepper and season to taste.
  3. Add the hard boiled egg and parsley and whisk lightly.
  4. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop, or refrigerate and use within 2 days. Bring back to room temperature before serving.

For the steamed asparagus:

  1. Please a steamer basket in a large, wide saucepan filled with about 1 inch of water. Cover and bring the water to a boil.
  2. When the water comes to a boil, place the asparagus in the steamer basket, cover with a lid and cook for approximately 4 to 7 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender but retains a bit of crispness. Take the pot off the heat and remove the lid.
  3. Remove the asparagus from the steamer basket and serve on a plate drizzled with gribiche sauce.

Valentine’s Day Deep and Dark Chocolate Mousse with Heath Bar Crunch

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Did I make it in time for Valentine’s Day?! I know that I missed posting a Super Bowl recipe (I made this recipe for stuffed shells on Super Bowl Sunday… you should make it too, it was a hit in my house).  I also made a Caesar salad using a new ingredient—silken tofu.

Caesar salad and chocolate mousse made with tofu?!! [GASP] I know, it’s so anti-dairy of me. I’m actually embarrassed to admit it. I think that I made up for it though by eating my weight in cheese last Saturday at a French Cheese & Wine class at Artisanal Premium Cheese Center (highly recommend).  I’m still salivating over the fondue and the Fleur de Marquis, a soft sheep’s milk cheese that is encrusted with rosemary, fennel seeds and juniper berries. Our instructor assured us that eating cheese, especially sheep’s milk cheeses, will flatten our bellies. Needless to say, I’m planning to eat a lot more of it within the next few weeks and probably for the rest of my life until I reach my goal weight.

Where were we? Oh, silken tofu. My husband adores chocolate pudding and chocolate mousse but it took me awhile to warm up to it, I never liked it as a child. I think it might have been a texture thing, but I never got excited when other kids would bring in mud pots for their birthdays (you know, the kind with the chocolate pudding, worms and Oreo crumbles). I know, I’m weird…

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Thankfully, I now like chocolate pudding, although I still don’t like anything with the work JELL-O in it. I don’t typically make a lot of mousse, but I’ve made quite a few variations of chocolate pudding in the past, typically using a combination of milk (2%), cocoa powder, chocolate, cornstarch, and sometimes eggs.

Now this recipe is great because it doesn’t take the typical 3 to 4 hours to cool in the refrigerator before you can eat it. I don’t know about you, but I am impatient and I also have an intense aversion to ice baths (I’m so over it after culinary school where we filled entire sinks to cool down stocks, day after day). Unlike traditional chocolate pudding, this chocolate mousse is ready to be eaten immediately!!! It will firm up considerably after a brief refrigeration period, but it’s not necessary. It’s also incredibly simple and quick to prepare, and relatively nutritious. It’s ready in less than 15 minutes, I promise.

So, if you are like me and haven’t planned an elaborate dessert in advance for your pudding-loving, chocolate-adoring Valentine this year, you can fall back on this recipe. It’s intensely chocolaty and sure to please (I mean really rich, I almost couldn’t finish my serving.. and this is coming from someone who has no problem polishing off 3 large slices of pizza followed by ice cream on occasion). It’s difficult to believe, but I may never go back to the dairy version.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Chocolate Tofu Mousse

Valentine’s Day Deep and Dark Chocolate Mousse with Heath Bar Crunch
Serves 2
Approx. cooking time: 15 minutes, start to finish

  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (I used 63% semisweet chocolate chips)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons non-fat milk (or soy milk if you don’t use dairy milk)
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • tiny pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dark rum (optional, could be replaced with Grand Marnier (orange liqueur), vanilla or almond extract)
  • 8.5 ounces silken tofu, drained (make sure to by the silken variety, firm or extra firm tofu will not work here)
  • 2 tablespoons HEATH English Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits (optional, but definitely great if you like texture)
  1. Fill a small to medium sized saucepan half way up with water and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to low.
  2. Break chocolate into small pieces and place the chocolate in a glass or metal mixing bowl that can fit over the saucepan without touching the water.
  3. Place the bowl over the saucepan. Allow the chocolate to melt, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula.  Note: The water should never come to a boil, use very low heat and allow the chocolate to melt slowly.
  4. When the chocolate has melted, add the cocoa powder, milk, granulated sugar and a very small pinch of sea salt and stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture looks shiny and smooth (at first the mixture will look pasty, but be patient because it will get to the correct consistency after a few minutes over the heat).
  5. Remove the bowl from the heat and mix in the dark rum with a spatula.
  6. Place the drained tofu in a food processor. Add the melted chocolate mixture and process until the mixture is smooth and homogenous.
  7. Transfer the pudding to a mixing bowl or individual serving bowls. Serve immediately or cover tightly with plastic wrap and store in a refrigerator until ready to serve, or up to 3 days.

Friday Fixings: Week 1: Roast Chicken

Roast Chicken with Rice

I had a revelation lat night as I sat on the sofa eating homemade Progresso Black Bean Soup for dinner. In my defense, I did manage to do some actual cooking prior to eating my soup, which involved making bread and baking some promising cookies (more on that later, if they in fact turn out to be good). Anyway, about that revelation…

It came about as I was thinking about various side dishes that might go well with tonight’s dinner. I was browsing the internet, as I often do for ideas (yes, even trained cooks and chefs browse the internet and cookbooks for inspiration), and determined that it can sometimes requires an exhausting amount of effort to find a simple side dish. Why, I’m not sure. But even mainstream publications like Food & Wine and Bon Appetit often confuse their readers by placing recipes like Soy-braised chicken and roasted brussels sprouts together on the same page. Both recipes sound good, but what should I make to go with the Soy-braised chicken? Surely not the brussels sprouts that are roasted with bacon and chestnuts?! When I look closely I do notice that there is a wine pairing for the chicken….So maybe if I drink enough of the wine I won’t notice that the brussels sprouts really don’t go well with the chicken?!!! Of course, this is just an example, and the intent of the magazine was not to tell you to make both of these dishes together, but it also never told you what might pair well with the chicken.

And alas, this is the point of my long, drawn-out tale. Let’s find a side dish (or “fixing”) that does pair well with our chicken. Every Friday, I’ll attempt to compile a list of side dishes that work well with a particular main course dish. And PLEASE, if you have any suggestions for side dishes for this week, or requests for future Fridays, please place them in the comments section!

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Friday Fixing: Week 1

Entree: Simple Roast Chicken with Herbs (here’s an example recipe by Ina Garten, which has worked for me in the past)

Suggested Fixings:

Carbs:

Veg:

Potato & Leek Soup

I adore Potato & Leek Soup, or Vichyssoise as the French refer to it. Vichyssoise is typically served chilled, but in the winter or on a rainy Spring day, I prefer to eat it piping hot with some fresh bread. There is nothing fancy about this recipe; it is incredibly simple but also delicious and comforting. Don’t even try to substitute leeks for onions here, because it just won’t taste the same. Leeks have a much sweeter and slightly more complex taste in my opinion. Typically this soup has heavy cream in it, but I prefer to make a lighter version because I find that the potatoes add plenty of creaminess without the need for extra fat.

Soups like this, with only six ingredients (not including the salt and pepper) remind me of why good quality and fresh ingredients are so important. The flavor of this soup far exceeds what you would expect from these humble ingredients.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Potato & Leek Soup
Serves 5-6 as an entree, or 8 as a first course

Ingredients

  • 3 large leeks (split lengthwise, soaked, and rinsed in cold water to remove the dirt). Chop only the white and pale green parts into thin slices.
  • 3 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes, cleaned, peeled, and cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons half & half or heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large soup pot or large enameled-cast iron Dutch Oven over low heat on the stove.
  2. Add the butter and leeks and sweat the leeks over low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. Add the potatoes, broth, and thyme and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  4. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through. Remove from the heat.
  5. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup (you can make the soup as smooth or as chunky as you like!)
  6. Add the half & half (you can use more or less depending on how creamy you like your soup) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.

Serving suggestions: This soup is a meal in itself when served with some nice hearty bread, cheese (I like cheddar or stilton with this soup), and a simple salad. Alternatively, this soup would make a great first course, served either warm or chilled.

Pulled Pork Arepas with Red Cabbage Slaw

For years I have been intrigued by the thought of making my own tortillas, tamales, or arepas, but until now I had never taken the plunge. When I saw this recipe in Food & Wine, I was determined to make it at home as soon as possible. As soon as possible turned into a few months, but I’m not complaining, I’m just happy that I finally achieved my goal. And more importantly, I am happy to report that my first attempt at cooking with masa harina (very finely ground corn flour) was a success! These arepas were delicious, and I can’t wait to make them again and to experiment with the filling, maybe substituting the pork for beans?!

When I initially considered making these arepas, I assumed that I would substitute the pulled pork for shredded chicken (because who, after all, has 6 consecutive hours to cook an entire pork shoulder? And more importantly, how could I possibly fit enough people into my small apartment to eat that entire pork shoulder?). In what was certainly a sign of divine intervention, Fresh Direct was promoting its all-natural Berkshire pulled pork last week. I was hesitant about buying pre-made pork, but after reading that the pork was seasoned simply with just salt and pepper, I was sold. Fortunately, I had purchased a small bag of masa harina from a specialty spice store a few weeks earlier, so with recipe in hand, I went to the grocery store and bought the remaining ingredients for the recipe.

After returning from the grocery store, I tackled my biggest fear—making the arepa dough. Thankfully, this recipe couldn’t be more straightforward, you simply combine the masa harina with a touch of salt and some warm water and then let the dough rest for 15 minutes. However, the challenge is forming the dough into disks without breaking the dough. My first attempt ended in failure, I couldn’t even form a flat circle, let alone stuff the pork inside the arepa. After deciding that my dough must be too wet, I added more masa harina and tried again, this time flattening the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap so that the dough wouldn’t stick to my work surface. This time, I was able to form the disk. I cautiously placed a small amount of pork filling in the center of the disk and than very carefully brought the sides of the dough up around the pork, creating a ball (inside the plastic wrap). Then, I even more carefully flattened the ball with my palm. To my shock and delight, it actually worked! Even though my arepas were very delicate, they didn’t have any gaping holes. I delicately placed each arepa on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and then placed the formed arepas in the refrigerator until dinner.

To cook the arepas, I modified the recipe. I wasn’t keen on frying the arepas, so I sautéed them in a nonstick skillet over high heat with a small amount of canola oil.  After browning both sides, I placed the cooked arepas in the oven to finish cooking. We ate our arepas topped with the red cabbage and red onion slaw suggested by Food & Wine, which added just the right amount of acidity to counterbalance the rich filling. We also garnished our arepas with some sour cream, fresh cilantro, and pickled jalapeños (which I was surprised to discover that I enjoy tremendously!). In the end, it was a fantastic meal. I loved how the soft and sweet masa dough paired with the slightly smoky and spicy pork. Now I just need an excuse to have a fiesta in my small apartment so that I can make them again!

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Pulled Pork Arepas with Red Cabbage Slaw
Recipe slightly adapted from Food & Wine

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 cups masa harina flour (I have heard that Maseca brand is the best)
  • 1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces cooked pulled pork (or chicken if that is what you have on hand)
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced scallion (green parts only)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • hot sauce to taste (I used Frank’s hot sauce)
  • 2 cups finely sliced red cabbage
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Vegetable oil (for sautéing)
  • Sliced picked jalapeños, sour cream (low fat or regular), fresh cilantro

Instructions:

  1. Combine the masa harina and salt in a large bowl. Add the water and combine well until the mixture forms a soft dough. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes at room temperature.
  2. While the dough is resting, combine the pulled pork, cheddar, hot sauce, scallions, and cilantro in a bowl.
  3. After the dough has rested for 15 minutes, line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil and set aside. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface or cutting board. Place a quarter of the dough on the plastic wrap and form a small ball with the dough. Place another sheet of plastic wrap on top of the dough and press down with your palm to form a 7-inch disk. Place about a third of a cup of the pork filling in the center of the disk. Carefully pull up the sides of the disk to form a ball around the filling, keeping the plastic wrap in place. Gently press down to form a 4-5 inch disk. Place the formed arepa on the sheet pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Repeat three more times to form four arepas. Refrigerate until ready to cook.
  4. At least 30 minutes before you plan to serve the arepas, combine the red cabbage, red onion, and red wine vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt to taste. Cover until ready to serve.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place a medium-size nonstick skillet over high heat.
  6. Add a tablespoon or two of canola oil to the pan and swirl to coat the surface of the pan with oil. Place two of the arepas (seam side down) in the pan and sauté over high heat, flipping once, until both sides are a nice golden brown color.
  7. Place in the oven to finish cooking for approximately 5 minutes. Repeat steps 6 and 7 to cook the remaining two arepas.
  8. Serve with slaw and additional garnish as desired.

Indian Food at Home

Ever since taking an art history class on Indian painting and sculpture in college, I have wanted to visit India, and even before that I loved eating Indian food. Everything about it appeals to my taste buds, the bold use of spices, the subtle (or in some cases fiery) heat, and the coolness of yogurt raita that I often accompanies the curries.

One of my favorite parts about going out to eat at an Indian restaurant for dinner is how many dishes I get to sample. In my family, we always share some samosas and pakora, a few curries, a daal (lentil dish), and a tandoori baked naan or paratha bread. The combination of flavors on my plate always entice me back for another serving, I just can’t help myself.

When I moved to New York from the Washington DC area, my favorite Indian restaurant quickly became a small vegetarian restaurant that serves a combination of Southern and Northern Indian food. Although they make some great dosas, my favorite dishes on the menu are the samosas and the chana masala (chickpea curry). Samosas in many restaurants can be disappointing, either too bland or too greasy, or both. The samosas at this restaurant are brimming with spices and are perfectly crispy on the outside. The chana masala is gingery and bright, containing fresh herbs and a nice dose of sautéed onions, tomatoes, cumin, and coriander. However, I can’t always make it downtown to eat at this restaurant, and to be honest, I like experimenting at home when I can.

A few weekends ago I decided to make my own version of an Indian chicken curry, loosely based off of Jamie Oliver’s recipe for chicken tikka masala. I have made this recipe before, and each time I remember why I love it. The first step involved marinating chicken in a pureed mixture of toasted spices, ginger, garlic, fresh cilantro, and yogurt. My best piece of advice is to marinade the chicken overnight if you have time, because the yogurt tenderizes the meat and ensures that the chicken stays nice and juicy after it is cooked. After allowing the chicken to marinade, I add the chicken to a sauce made of sautéed onions, more spices, and tomato sauce. Although Jamie Oliver discards the yogurt marinade and cooks his chicken under a broiler, I just add the yogurt and the chicken to the tomato sauce in the pan because the yogurt adds extra creaminess to the sauce without the need to add extra cream or butter. And to be honest, I didn’t feel like taking the time to broil the chicken. Even though it can’t compare to my favorite Indian restaurant, this curry perfectly satisfies my craving for Indian food.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Indian Chicken Curry
Loosely adapted from Jamie Oliver’s chicken tikka masala

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala (can be purchased in some grocery stores and at specialty stores)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1.5 cups low fat or whole plain yogurt
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup canned pureed tomatoes or finely chopped tomatoes
  • ½ cup water

Instructions:

  1. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat and add one tablespoon of olive oil and the mustard seeds. Cook mustard seeds until they begin to pop. As soon as they start to pop (being careful, because the seeds will try to pop out of the pan!!) add the cumin, paprika, one teaspoon of garam masala, the coriander, curry powder, ginger, and garlic to the pan. Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes and then remove the pan from the heat.
  2. Combine the cilantro and yogurt in a food processor with the toasted spices and process until smooth.
  3. Cut the chicken breast into 1-inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Pour the yogurt marinade over the chicken and combine well. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
  4. 30 minutes before you plan to serve the meal remove the chicken from the refrigerator and place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the onion to the pan and sweat over low heat until the onion in translucent and soft.
  5. Add one teaspoon of garam masala and a pinch of cayenne to the pan and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato sauce and water to the pan, increase the heat, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes.
  7. Add the chicken pieces and the yogurt marinade to the pan and cook for an additional 7 to 10 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through.
  8. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Serve over steamed basmati rice and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Additional serving suggestionsraita (homemade or store bought), yogurt, naan bread, daal, mango chutney.

Watercress Soup


This recipe is actually taken from a project that I did while attending the French Culinary Institute. It isn’t fancy, and comes together very quickly—perfect for a lazy weekend or a weeknight meal. My inspiration came from the many watercress and egg salads that I eat when I visit my grandmother in England every summer. Watercress is not very popular in this country, but it is used very frequently by the British in sandwiches, soups, and salads. If you have the ingredients on hand, I urge you to make the lemon crème fraiche that accompanies this soup. It adds a touch of creaminess and a refreshing burst of citrus to the soup. However, if you don’t have the time or ingredients, feel free to do without or to substitute a dollop of yogurt or sour cream instead. This soup would make a great appetizer (which was its original intention), or a light meal served with some crusty, buttered bread. It can also be served either hot or chilled, which makes it perfect for both the summer and the winter!

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Watercress Soup with Lemon Crème Fraiche
Serves 8, 150mL portions (or 4 entree portions)

I chose to pair this soup with the 2009 Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc from Martinborough, New Zealand because this wine is bright and citrusy and has some peppery notes, which is a perfect compliment for the pepperiness of the watercress and the lemon crème fraiche that garnishes the soup.

For the Watercress Soup:

  • 1 leek (95g), white parts only, chopped finely
  • 2-3 T unsalted butter
  • 3 bunches (477g) of watercress (thick stalks removed)
  • 1 medium yukon gold potato (medium sized, peeled and cut in ½ inch cubes)
  • 1,185mL (5 cups) Vegetable Stock
  • ½ t Lemon Juice
  • 1 T Heavy Cream
  • Salt and Black Pepper (as needed)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (as needed)

Instructions for the Watercress Soup:

  1. Place a marmite over low heat. Sweat the leeks in the butter until translucent.
  2. Add the potato and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes over low to medium heat.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are completely cooked through.
  4. Add the watercress to the pot and continue to simmer for an additional 2 minutes, or until the watercress has wilted.
  5. Remove the soup from the heat and puree the soup in batches in a blender.
  6. Return the pureed soup to the low heat and stir in the lemon juice and cream.
  7. Serve hot with a dollop of lemon crème fraiche and a few drops of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

For Presentation of the Watercress Soup:

  1. Ladle hot soup into bowl.  Garnish with a small spoonful of crème fraiche (see recipe below) and a single sprig of watercress. Finish with a few drops of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and serve.

Lemon Crème Fraiche (adapted from a recipe by John Ash in From the Earth to the Table):

  • 8 oz crème fraiche
  • 2 t lemon rind
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • Salt to taste

Instructions for the Lemon Crème Fraiche:

  1. Whisk the crème fraiche, lemon rind, and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and keep refrigerated until service.

Mushroom and Roquefort Strudel

Two weekends ago, Brian and I were in Washington, D.C., meeting with some prospective wedding vendors and visiting my sister and godparents. For a long time, I had been promising my godparents that I would make them dinner, so I delivered on that promise while we were in D.C. Thankfully, they let me off the hook a bit by offering to make the hors d’oeuvres and dessert (and my sister pitched in by making some great homemade bread!).

For our main course, I made seared duck breasts served with lentils braised in red wine, and for the starter I made a mushroom and Roquefort strudel. I made this strudel last year for New Years Eve and it was a hit, so I have decided to share the recipe with you because it truly is delicious. Sautéed mushrooms and blue cheese make a great pairing, and this strudel recipe is a wonderful example of how well they compliment each other.

Although this strudel may look intimidating, it is in fact quite easy to make. The most difficult part is layering the phyllo dough, which, if you impatient like me, can be infuriating. The good news is that this strudel is quite forgiving, so a few rips in your phyllo dough really won’t make a big difference to the end result as long as there are no holes when you roll it up.

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Mushroom and Roquefort Strudel

Serves 6 appetizer portions

Ingredients:

  • 1 box phyllo dough (defrosted according to the directions on the package)
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 pounds assorted mushrooms (I used crimini and shitake)
  • ¼ cup white wine (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces Roquefort cheese (or other blue cheese)
  • 6 tablespoons dry bread crumbs (store bought is fine for this recipe)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Heat a large sauté pan over low-medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and cook over low heat until the shallots are translucent.
  3. Add all of the mushrooms and the garlic and turn up the heat to medium-high. Sauté the mushrooms until they have released all of their liquid and then reabsorbed the liquid.
  4. Add the wine and thyme and cook over medium-high heat until the wine is fully reduced. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Take the sauté pan off the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before constructing the strudel
  6. When the mushroom mixture has cooled, crumble the Roquefort into the mushrooms and mix in lightly.
  7. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter over the stove or in the microwave.
  8. Brush a large sheet pan with a small amount of butter to prevent the strudel from sticking.
  9. Take out your phyllo dough and place one layer of the phyllo on the buttered sheet pan. Brush the sheet of pastry with butter and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs evenly over the sheet of phyllo.
  10. Place another sheet of phyllo over the first layer, brush with butter, and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Repeat 4 more times, so that you have a total of 6 layers of phyllo.
  11.  Spoon the cooled mushroom filling onto the long side of the last layer of phyllo.
  12. Carefully roll up the strudel so that the seam side faces down and fold in the ends.
  13. Brush the outside of the strudel with melted butter and place the strudel in the oven for 34-40 minutes, or until the outside is golden brown.
  14. Serve alone or top of baby mixed greens. Rainwater Madeira is a perfect pairing for this strudel!

 

Red Wine Braised Beef with Fall Vegetables

The smell of red wine, onions, and fresh rosemary and thyme permeated our entire apartment last weekend.  It made us hungry well before we were ready to have dinner. By the time that our braised beef was finished, we were almost famished, eager to dig in to the tender meat, root vegetables, and rustic mashed potatoes made from creamy German butterball potatoes bought that morning from the farmers market.

I am ashamed to admit that it has been far too long since I ventured downtown to the Union Square Greenmarket. The fall is actually my favorite season to visit the farmers market. I love the gourds, pumpkins, root vegetables, and apples that are prominently displayed. It inspires me to cook, and to be creative in the kitchen. In the summer I shy away from making complicated dishes, preferring to make simple dishes that allow the flavor of the vegetables and fruits to take center stage. In the fall and winter, I want to make stews, braises, and French sauces, recipes that allow me to build layer upon layer of flavor.

The following recipe is certainly not groundbreaking; it is rustic and uncomplicated, definitely suitable for a Sunday dinner on a cold evening. The ingredients that we bought from the farmers market are what stood out and made this delicious. At one stand we found baby carrots with their green tops still intact; at another, we found celery root, fresh rosemary, thyme, and small cipollini onions in various colors. My favorite purchase was a bag of German butterball potatoes, which cost a small fortune, but made up for it in flavor. After eating feather-light gnocchi made out of German butterballs at an Italian restaurant earlier in the week, I knew that they would make delicious mashed potatoes, and I was right. In addition to the vegetables and herbs, we also found grass-fed beef that I later cut into cubes.

The steps involved in this recipe are not difficult, but they do require some patience. You don’t want to rush the browning process of the meat, nor do you want to skip sweating the onions and garlic, which is necessary in order to develop a complex braising liquid that is rich and flavorful. There are many ways in which you could modify this recipe. For example, you could use turnips instead of celery root. There is a good deal of red wine involved here, so I recommend using an inexpensive wine that you enjoy drinking, because it will make a difference.  Now let’s get to the recipe!

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Red Wine Braised Beef with Fall Vegetables
Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lbs. grass-fed stew beef, cut into cubes (beef chuck is ideal here)
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola oil (for browning the beef)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, cut into ½ inch pieces
  • 2 small tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cognac (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
  • 1 bunch of baby carrots, peeled and trimmed, and left whole
  • 18 cippolini onions (3 per person), peeled and trimmed, and left whole
  • 1 head of celery root, peeled and cut into 1½ inch cubes
  • ½ to ¾ of a bottle of red wine (I used a Bordeaux)
  •  2 cups of beef broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Instructions:

  1. Place a large cast-iron pot (or any oven-safe pot with a lid) over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the canola oil and the cubed beef and brown the beef on all sides. Once the beef is well browned, remove it from the pan and set aside.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, celery, and garlic. Sweat over low heat until translucent.
  4. Add the tomato and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  5. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add all of the cognac. Allow the cognac to reduce by ¾ and then add the tomato paste. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add the flour and browned meat and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add enough wine to come up to ¾ of the height of the vegetables and then add enough beef broth to just cover the vegetables and meat.
  8. Add the rosemary, thyme, carrots, cippolini onions, and celery root. Season with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  9. Allow the liquid to come to a simmer and then cover the pot and place it in the oven for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.
  10. When the meat is tender, remove the braise from the oven. Using a ladle, ladle out 5 to 6 cups of the braising liquid (without any meat or vegetables) into a wide, shallow sauté pan with sloping sides.
  11. Place the braising liquid on the stove over high heat and reduce until the braising liquid is nappant (meaning that it coats the back of a spoon).

To Serve:

Ladle a portion of meat and vegetables onto a plate and spoon some of the reduced braising liquid over the meat and vegetables. Serve with homemade mashed potatoes.

Pasta Salad for Hurricane Irene

This weekend, as the East Coast waited for Hurricane Irene to arrive, I whipped together this pasta salad.  I was in the Philadelphia area this weekend, away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, and happy that I had access to a backyard and a grill.  Friday’s weather was gorgeous, so I made the most of the brief hours that remained before the rain came pouring down to grill some chicken and make this side dish.

I am not the biggest fan of traditional pasta salad, mainly because I dislike mayonnaise in almost anything except for tuna salad.  This pasta salad is still creamy, due to the incorporation of goat’s milk cheese, but it is lighter, and in my opinion, more befitting of a nice summer evening.  My favorite thing about this pasta is the way that the raw corn bursts in your mouth as you take a bite.  It’s also easy to prepare, and can be made in the time that it takes to heat the grill and cook some chicken or steak.  I will definitely be making this again, although hopefully not on the eve of another hurricane!

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Summer Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese, Sweet Corn, and Scallions

Serves 5

Ingredients:

  • 1-pound box of macaroni-shaped pasta
  • 1  bunch of scallions (green parts only), sliced thinly
  • Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn (or 1.5 cups of frozen corn)
  • 4oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Instructions:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the box.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, slice the scallions, crumble the goat cheese, and remove the kernels from the 2 ears of corn.
  3. When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta in a colander and add it to a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Add the scallions, goat cheese, and raw corn to the pasta and toss everything together.  Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve immediately or allow the pasta to cool and serve at room temperature.