Posts Tagged 'Entertaining'



Peach, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Salad

I got sucked in by Costco’s goat cheese again. (Why buy 5 ounces for $4.99 when you can get two 10-ounce logs for $5.99? Plus, their goat cheese is super creamy and delish.) In my quest to find ways to use it, I came across today’s recipe: Peach, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Salad. I love peaches, adore prosciutto, and am crazy about goat cheese, so how could I go wrong?

Peach, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1/3 cup walnut oil (I used olive because that’s what I had)
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 cups curly leaf lettuce (I used baby spinach since I had a giant Costco container)
2 ripe peaches, peeled
8 thin slices of prosciutto
4 ounces soft goat cheese

Method:
Combine oil, lime juice, shallots, honey, pepper, and salt in a jar; cover tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Let stand 1 hour to allow flavors to blend.

Meanwhile, cut each peach into 8 wedges. Halve prosciutto slices lengthwise and wrap each peach slice in prosciutto. Thinly slice goat cheese using unflavored dental floss or a warm knife (wiped clean after each slice).

Toss lettuce with dressing. (You may not need to use it all.) Divide lettuce among four plates and top with goat cheese, peaches, and prosciutto. If you have extra dressing, drizzle some over the top of each salad.

Adapted (mostly because I think they wrote the lettuce and goat cheese quantities incorrectly) from The Dallas Morning News

Peach, Prosciutto, and Goat Cheese Salad

What a fun and delicious salad! The goat cheese, peach, and prosciutto combination is fantastic, and I love the amount of lime and shallot in the dressing. I’ll make this one again and again this summer.

That said, this salad would be even better with nuts. Adding a crunchy textural element would definitely take this over the top. I plan to make this recipe with a sprinkle of chopped, toasted walnuts next time (a natural choice since the original recipe calls for walnut oil in the dressing).

TIPS: Not sure about the best way to peel a peach? I learned this trick from Martha a few years back. Also, if you want to make this salad ahead (I know I will at some point!), you could make the dressing, slice the goat cheese (place wax paper squares between each slice for easy separation later), and wrap the peaches in the prosciutto beforehand. Just store everything in airtight containers in the refrigerator. When it’s time to eat, toss the lettuce with the dressing, assemble the salads, and top with the chopped walnuts. (That’s much easier than slicing goat cheese with dental floss in front of dinner guests, right?)

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Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies

“Mayhem” (the only way I can describe my May!) is almost over. Hallelujah. It’s been fun, but traveling every weekend really puts a damper on my cooking, and I’m ready to get back to it.

Today’s recipe – Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies – is a treat I’ve enjoyed at my friend Christopher’s house numerous times. Until I actively sought out the recipe, though, I didn’t realize that (a) I’ve had it in my possession since September 2009, and (b) it’s been on my list of must-try recipes for months and months.

The cookies are super simple to make; there’s only six ingredients, and prep time is minimal. The first time I made a batch, though, they did not look like the cookies I’d enjoyed before. Christopher’s had relatively smooth but still slightly crackly tops, while mine were very uneven. I had ignored my kitchen instincts when I made the batter and didn’t beat the egg whites before adding them to the dry mixture (the recipe said nothing about it), so I figured this must have been my problem. This time, with lightly beaten egg whites, the cookies turned out perfectly.

Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies
Makes 12

Ingredients:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (sub chocolate chips if desired)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (or other type of nut)
4 large egg whites, room temperature (I say lightly beaten)

Method:
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and salt. Stir in chocolate and pecans. Add egg whites and stir until just incorporated (do not overmix).

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls, 3 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake until cookie tops are dry and crackled, about 25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely. (To store, keep in an airtight container, up to 3 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, September 2009

Image

These are one of my top three favorite cookies, easy. The crisp, crackly outside gives way to a chewy, brownie-like center and the combination is absolutely out of this world. The cookies are large (about the size of my palm) and visually impressive, which makes them great for gifts or entertaining.

The quality of cocoa powder used definitely affects the flavor of the cookie, so if you try the recipe, go with the best. I’ve had good results with Savory Spice Shop’s cocoa (I mixed their basic Dutch-process cocoa with their Black Onyx) and with Ghirardelli; Christopher swears by Droste.

Recipe link: Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Thai Vegetable Curry

Today’s dish is one I was sure was on the blog already, based on how many times I’ve made it: Food & Wine‘s recipe for Thai Vegetable Curry. I first made it for a Thai-themed gourmet club meeting back in June of 2011 (along with this fantastic recipe for Thai Chicken with Basil). I typically make the curry every couple of months or so because it’s absolutely delicious, comforting, and incredibly easy.

This particular recipe is great for weeknights or entertaining. When I’m cooking for just the two of us, I serve it right away with a pot of rice. The curry is perfect for dinner parties, though, because it actually tastes a little bit better when it’s made a day ahead. I throw mine together in a Dutch oven, refrigerate it overnight for optimal flavor blending, and then gently reheat it on the stove while we enjoy appetizers with our guests.

Thai Vegetable Curry
Serves 6

Ingredients:
1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, sliced thin
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons Thai green curry paste (I used red curry paste)
1 2/3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk (one 15-ounce can)
1 cup canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup drained canned bamboo shoots, halved
1 pound boiling potatoes (about 2), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound broccoli, thick stems removed, tops cut into small florets (1 quart) (I used cauliflower)
1 tomato, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/3 cup thin-sliced basil leaves

Method:
In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the curry paste and fry, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the coconut milk and broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, bamboo shoots, potatoes, and broccoli. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomato and heat through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and basil.

Variations: Other vegetables that would taste good in place of the broccoli include carrots, eggplant, cauliflower, snow peas, cabbage, green beans, and canned baby corn. Try your favorite, or use a combination of vegetables.

Source: Food & Wine

Thai Vegetable Curry

Yum, yum, yum.  Maybe I just love curry and coconut, but this dish is simply delicious.  There’s good textural contrast in the vegetables, and I adore the warm, creamy broth.  My version is very mild since I use red curry paste; try green curry paste instead if you can’t get enough heat.

Earlier, I mentioned that I usually serve the dish immediately when it’s just the two of us and a day later when we’re entertaining.  One other modification I make is that I’ll use light coconut milk for us and regular coconut milk when we have guests.  Light coconut milk makes the dish super healthy (only 4 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points per serving, without rice).  Regular coconut milk doesn’t make it a nutritional disaster, but it certainly adds a richness to the broth that elevates the dish for company.

Recipe link: Thai Vegetable Curry

White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil

Let me introduce you to my current favorite appetizer for entertaining: White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil from Peace Meals.  It’s absolutely delicious and looks really sophisticated, though it’s super easy and can be made ahead.  I originally made it for a gourmet club meeting a few months back, and then re-made it this past weekend when we had friends over for dinner.  It was a hit!

White Bean Dip with Lemon Sage Olive Oil
Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 bay leaf
30 ounces canned white beans, drained and rinsed, with 3 tablespoons whole beans reserved for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
Fresh pita bread or crackers

Method:
Warm 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) of the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over low heat. Add the garlic and bay leaf, cooking gently for about 1 minute (do not overcook). Discard the bay leaf. Pour the oil and the sautéed garlic into a food processor or blender, setting the sauté pan aside for later use. Add the white beans, lemon juice, and salt to the food processor, and purée the mixture until smooth. Transfer the puréed dip to a serving bowl and top with the reserved whole beans. Heat the remaining 1/8 cup of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium. Add the sage and lemon zest, cooking just until the sage begins to curl and the zest begins to turn golden. Remove from heat and drizzle the infused oil, sage, and lemon zest over the bean dip. Serve warm or at room temperature with pita bread or crackers.

Source: Peace Meals

White Bean Dip with Sage Lemon Olive Oil

Yum, yum, yum.  The texture of the dip is just like hummus, but the sage and lemon create a really distinct flavor profile.  I usually feel like hummus is a bit tangy, but this is smooth, bright (from the lemon), and herbaceous (from the sage).  It’s at its absolute best right when you’ve poured the warm oil, sage, and lemon zest over the top, but it’s still amazing made ahead.  Just allow the oil on top to cool to room temperature, cover your dish with plastic wrap, refrigerate, and then set the dip out 30 or 45 minutes before serving to allow it to come to room temperature.  You (and your guests) will love it!

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Christopher actually visited my blog (instead of viewing it through Google Reader) and noticed that my header was in need of a face-lift.  (He created the previous one, so he’s allowed to say that!)  He came over recently and created the new one while I prepared today’s recipe as a thank-you dinner.  Many, many thanks to Christopher for my fresh new look.  I love it!

Anyway, both Christopher and I have a thing for pork, whether it’s shredded for tacos, part of a meatball, sauteed with sauce, or – for this meal – roasted with vegetables and drizzled with mustard gravy.  This recipe has an amazing end result and is impressive enough for company; it certainly earned the C.Go stamp of approval.

Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pounds carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 pound shallots, peeled and halved if large
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast
3/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons grainy mustard

Method:
Preheat oven to 450°F.   On a rimmed baking sheet, toss carrots, shallots, and 1 tablespoon rosemary with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, season pork with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium.  Add pork; cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.  Transfer pork to a plate, and reserve skillet.

Remove baking sheet from oven; push vegetables to sides.  Place pork in center; return sheet to oven.  Roast, tossing vegetables occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of pork registers 145°F, 30 to 40 minutes. Loosely tent pork with foil.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

While pork rests, pour off almost all of the fat from skillet.  Add wine, and cook over medium-high, scraping up browned bits, until syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 30 seconds.  Gradually add 1 cup water, whisking constantly.  Add 1 tablespoon rosemary.  Bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat. Whisk in mustard, and season gravy with salt and pepper.  Serve pork with carrots and gravy.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2009

My notes:

  • The smallest pork loin I could find at my grocery store was 2.7 pounds, so I bought it.
  • Since my roast was large, I used the full 40 minutes of baking time.
  • When I tested the temperature of my pork, it was more like 138° or 139°.  I didn’t want to risk overcooking it, so I tented it then.  I’m glad I did, because the pork turned out tender and juicy, and just barely pink.
  • Peeling all those shallots was kind of a pain, though they are delicious. Christopher and I think it would be fine to use a small red onion (cut into wedges) or pearl onions as a substitute.

Roasted Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

I rounded out the meal with a simple side of green beans, and did we ever enjoy it all.  The pork was perfectly cooked, the vegetables were tender, and the blackened bits on the vegetable edges were over-the-top delicious.  We liked the rosemary in the vegetables but thought it was overkill in the gravy; next time, I’ll leave it out. Also, if you’re feeling a bit lazy, the meal would still be perfectly delicious if you skipped the gravy altogether.  I enjoyed the extra flavor boost, though.  This one’s definitely a keeper!

Recipe link: Roast Pork Loin with Carrots and Mustard Gravy

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes

Oenophile (\ˈē-nə-ˌfī(-ə)l\): a lover or connoisseur of wine

Am I a lover of wine?  Absolutely.  Would I consider myself a connoisseur?  Absolutely not.

Maybe that’s why I hung onto a bottle of 2001 Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that was so graciously gifted to me by my friend Annie when she came to visit Dr. O and me in Dallas in 2008.  It was way nicer than anything we’d typically buy for ourselves (I’m an $8 – $15 bottle kind of gal), so I figured we’d save it for a special occasion.  Somehow, though, after many special occasions and two moves, the bottle was still sitting on a wine rack in my basement.

Since one of my goals for 2012 is focus more on the present (I’m a compulsive planner!), I figured there was no better reason to enjoy the wine than to have a date night dinner at the house with Dr. O.  Good red wine requires steak, though, right? After scanning several recipes on Martha Stewart’s website, I found my winner: Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes.  The end result was absolutely wine worthy and something I plan to make again and again.

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes
Prep time: 35 minutes | Total time: 35 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 pints grape tomatoes
6 scallions, white and green parts separated and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak (cut into 2 or more pieces, if necessary, to fit in skillet)
1 cup balsamic vinegar

Method:
Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a large saucepan, set 4 cups water to boil.  On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss tomatoes with scallion whites and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper.  Roast until tomatoes are tender and some skins have split, 12 to 15 minutes; toss with scallion greens.

Meanwhile, add 1 teaspoon salt to boiling water; gradually whisk in cornmeal. Simmer very gently over low heat, whisking occasionally, until polenta is thickened and cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Whisk in butter and Parmesan, and keep warm over very low heat (whisk in some water just before serving if polenta becomes too thick).

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high.  Season steak with salt and pepper; add to skillet.  Cook, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest, 5 to 10 minutes (reserve skillet).

Add vinegar to skillet, and boil over high until reduced to 1/2 cup, 5 to 7 minutes; stir in any juices from resting steak.  Slice steak, and serve with vinegar sauce, polenta, and tomatoes.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2008

My notes:

  • I used flank steak instead of skirt steak.
  • I cooked my steak for 6 minutes on each side (12 minutes total) for medium meat.
  • I checked my balsamic 3 minutes into the reduction process, and it was already way too reduced.  Keep an eye on it and take it off when it has a syrupy consistency.

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes

Honestly, this is the best meal I’ve made in ages.  (I couldn’t help but compliment myself repeatedly as we were eating…  Ridiculous, I know, but I deserved the praise!) The flavors and the cooking methods were so simple, but I think that’s why everything was so amazing.  Roasting really brought out the sweetness in the tomatoes, the scallions had some bite to them, and the steak had a wonderfully seasoned crust from cooking over high heat.  The polenta was creamy and absolutely heavenly when the vegetable and steak juices were mixed in.

Great food + fantastic wine + the company of someone you love = an unbeatable evening.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Recipe link: Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes

Vanilla Caramels

Here’s another edible holiday gift!

I love Bequet’s Celtic sea salt caramels, and I went through a phase back in March when I made several different recipes in an attempt to duplicate their amazing flavor and texture.  One recipe was a total failure, and one had pretty amazing textural results but tasted really strongly of brown sugar (good, but not what I was going for). I dropped my pursuit of perfect caramels until I came across Grace Parisi’s recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels last week; I’ve had so much luck with Food and Wine recipes that I figured I might as well give them a try.  These have the more delicate, sophisticated flavor I was looking for, and the texture is just fantastic. They’re not quite Bequets, but they’re close enough!

I skipped the chocolate part of Ms. Parisi’s recipe, so click the link to the original recipe at the bottom of the post if you want the whole thing.

Vanilla Caramels
Adapted from FoodandWine.com

Ingredients:
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I ran out of light, so I used 3/4 cup light and 1/4 cup dark)
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, crumbled

Method:
Line a 9-x-13-inch pan with foil; spray it with vegetable oil.  In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the sugar, corn syrup and cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Add the vanilla seeds.  Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer, 1 hour.  Stir in the sea salt and scrape the caramel into the prepared pan.  Let cool and set completely overnight.

Invert the caramel onto a cutting board and peel off the foil.  Using a sharp, lightly oiled knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch wide strips and then into 1-inch squares. Wrap the individual caramel squares in wax paper.

My modifications:

  • I lined my 9-x-13-inch pan with parchment paper, not foil, since that’s what I used when I made all those caramels back in March.
  • I periodically washed down the sides of my pan with a silicone brush and water to make sure there weren’t any undissolved sugar grains.  A single unincorporated sugar crystal can crystallize the candy mixture and ruin your whole batch.  The corn syrup in the recipe helps prevent crystallization, but I figured it was better to be overly cautious.
  • The recipe is kind of ambiguous about how much stirring you should do.  I just stirred mine periodically and very carefully.  (Sloshing the mixture around, especially early in the recipe, can lead to crystallization.)
  • Since high altitude affects candy making temperatures, I cooked my mixture to 235°F instead of 245°F.  (At my house, water boils at 202°F instead of 212°F, which is why I subtracted 10 degrees.  If you don’t live at sea level, you can do the test yourself by sticking a candy thermometer in a pot of water and bringing it to a boil.)
  • Once the mixture hit 235°F, I removed it from the heat and waited 1 minute before stirring in the sea salt.  I think waiting a beat helps the salt maintain its crunch in the finished caramels.

Vanilla Caramels

Aren’t these absolutely adorable?  I cut my caramels much smaller and did the more traditional wax-paper-with-twisted-ends packaging in the spring, but bigger cuts with bows are so much better for gifting.

I’m so pleased with the results of this recipe!  The flavor is wonderful, and the sea salt maintained its crunch in the finished product (one of my favorite elements of the Bequet caramels).  Cooked to 235°F, the caramels are firm enough to hold their shape but definitely soft and chewy.  The Bequet caramels are softer (they might start to puddle ever so slightly if you unwrapped one and let it sit for a few minutes), so I might try taking these off the heat at 230°F next time to see if I can get even closer to a Bequet-like result.  This is definitely my new go-to caramel recipe.

Update 1/19/13: I made these for Christmas last month and lined my pan with non-stick foil without any vegetable oil or spray. The foil worked perfectly! I’m going to use this method from here on out to prevent the vegetable oil problems a few of you have mentioned.

Recipe link: Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels




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