Saturday, June 20, 2009

Macerated Berry Puffs with Mascarpone Cheese and Lime Sherbet

This simple dessert soaks in the freshest fruit of the season. It’s a wonderful, light ending to a super supper.

1 pint fresh blueberries, about 2 cups
1 pint fresh raspberries, about 2 cups
1 pint fresh blackberries, about 2 cups
1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted, about 2 1/2 cups
Juice of 1 large orange, about 1/3 cup
Zest of 1 medium orange, about 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons Cointreau (orange liquor)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 tablespoon organic heavy cream
Lime Sherbet
Confectioners’ sugar
Fresh mint leaves

Combine the berries and the cherries in a bowl. Gently stir in the orange juice, zest and Cointreau. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pastry sheet onto a floured work surface. Roll out to a 10 by 12-inch rectangle. Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry sheet into 8 squares. Transfer the pastry squares to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place the baking sheet into the fridge and chill for 15 minutes.
Bake the puffs until golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool.

To assemble the puffs, place the mascarpone cheese into a bowl and whisk with 1 tablespoon cream until smooth. Spilt the puffs in half horizontally. Place the bottom half of one puff on a plate. Top with a slathering of mascarpone cheese. Spoon berries over the cheese. Place the top half of the puff onto the berries. Place a scoop full of sherbet along side. Garnish with confectioners’ sugar and fresh mint.

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 to 15 minutes for puffs

Sources and Substitutions
This is a great summer dessert, easily adapted to seasonal fruit; pears and apples work well. You’ll also find the addition of a little espresso in the mascarpone really livens up a raspberry puff!

Sautéed Zucchini Topped with Roasted Tomatoes and Pine Nuts

This is a wonderful veggie dish, which goes with everything. Sprinkling the tomatoes with just a bit of sugar brings out the most wonder flavors. I cannot tell a lie. I found this recipe in one of Martha’s magazines. I changed it a little to simplify the process - but still kept the technique for sautéing the zucchini – which is genius! Feel free to make this one your own by changing around the ingredients. Imitation is the highest form of flattery!

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
8 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced, about 3 tablespoons
Fresh thyme sprigs
1 teaspoon all natural granulated sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 more for zucchini
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 large zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces, about 4 cups
¼ cup water
Pinch of baking soda
1 (2-ounce) package pine nuts, about 1/2 cup
Zest of 1 medium lemon, about 1 to 2 teaspoons

Preheat to oven to 400 degrees. Place the tomatoes onto a baking sheet. Toss the garlic and thyme sprigs around the tomatoes. Drizzle with sugar, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Toss gently. Roast until the tomatoes begin to burst, and the garlic is soft and golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss with the olives and capers. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place the zucchini into the skillet in a single layer. Season with salt. Add ¼ cup water and a pinch of baking soda. Cook, turning often until the water evaporates and the zucchini is just soft and golden, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be patient, this step is worth the effort.

Transfer the zucchini to a baking pan. Cover each piece with a spoonful of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Bake until the dish is warmed through, about 10 minutes. Grate the lemon zest over top and serve warm.

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Brined Pork Roast Stuffed with Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Roasted Lemon and Rosemary Sauce

This is an elegant dish to serve at your next dinner party. Brining the pork produces a really, tender, juicy cut of meat. Stuffing the pork makes it even more flavorful and the drizzle of rich, lemony sauce takes it well over the tippy-top!

For brining the pork:
½ cup all natural granulated sugar
1 cup kosher salt
2 cups water
1 (4-pound) boneless pork loin roast
Fresh rosemary sprigs
2 bay leaves

For the pesto stuffing:
1 (2-ounce) package pine nuts, about 1/2 cup
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, about 4 cups
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 1 tablespoon
1 (3.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained, reserve the oil
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the roasted lemon sauce:
4 large lemons
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and diced
½ cup white wine
2 cups homemade chicken broth, or low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons organic unsalted butter

Mix together the sugar, salt and water in a large bowl or pan. Place the roast into the bowl. Add a handful of rosemary springs (save some for the sauce) and bay leaves. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 and up to 8 hours.

Toast the pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until golden, about 4 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully so the nuts do not burn! Place the spinach leaves, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and toasted pine nuts in the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. With the machine on, slowly pour in the reserved oil from the sun-dried tomatoes to form a paste. If the mixture is too dry, you can pour in additional olive oil. Set the pesto aside.

Preheat the oven to broil. Cut the lemons in half. Cut a small piece from the bottom of each half so that the lemons sit flesh side up in a pan. Broil until the lemons are charred, about 5 to 10 minutes. Set the roasted lemons aside.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the pork from the brine and pat dry. Use a sharp knife to cut a pocket into the center of the pork roast. Stuff the pocket with the spinach pesto mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Place one tablespoon olive oil in the skillet. Brown the pork roast on all sides, taking care to keep the stuffing in place. Place the stuffed pork roast onto a rack in a roasting pan. Cook until the roast reaches and internal temperature of 145 degrees, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the roast to a rack, and tent with aluminum foil.

Place the roasting pan on the stove top over medium high heat. Cook the shallots in the pan until soft. Pour in the wine. Use a wooden spoon to stir the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the wine by half. Squeeze the juice from 6 of the lemon halves into the pan. Pour in the chicken broth. Add the remaining rosemary sprigs. Simmer and reduce the sauce by half. Strain the sauce through a sieve into a pot. Return the pot to the stove over very low heat. Swirl in the butter. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

Cut the pork into 1-inch slices and lay onto a platter. Drizzle the sauce over top. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs and the remaining roasted lemons.

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes, plus brining
Cook Time: 45 minutes for the roast

Sources and Substitutions
For a heartier stuffing, and ½ cup fresh bread crumbs to the pesto.

Heirloom Tomato, Fresh Mozzarella, and Grilled Eggplant Salad topped with Diced Hardboiled Egg Garnish

This dish is based on traditional Caprese salad that combines fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes and basil. The addition of grilled eggplant adds heartiness to this version. Gremolata is a garnish that combines lemon zest, garlic and parsley. To kick up our salad even higher, I added chopped egg to the gremolata. The result is a kissin’ cousin salad to the Caprese that’s just delicious served at room temperature where the flavors meld together.

1 (1-pound) eggplant, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into ½-inch slices
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch slices
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
2 large organic eggs, hard boiled, peeled and chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 1 tablespoon
Zest of 1 medium lemon, about 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Brush the eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Grill the eggplant slices, in batches, turning once until golden and just soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Assemble the salad on a large platter, alternating slices of tomato, eggplant and mozzarella. For the gremolata, place the chopped egg, garlic, lemon zest and parsley onto a board. Chop to combine the ingredients into a fine dice. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the egg mixture onto the salad. Drizzle the dish with olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Grind fresh pepper over top. Serve at room temperature.

Note: You can assemble the salad in advance, without the garnish. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Just before you present the platter, top with the egg garnish, olive oil and balsamic. Finish the dish with the chopped egg garnish, olive oil, balsamic and pepper.

Servings: 8
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Wild Mushroom, Roasted Red Pepper and Artisanal Goat Cheese Tart with Fresh Thyme

This is a simple appy that you can prepare in advance and bake as your guests arrive. The better the ingredients, the better the tart. Artisanal cheese makes a difference here. Farmer’s markets are loaded with vendors, offering their own varieties of seasoned goat cheese. Don’t hesitate to sample the wares, load your shopping tote with goodies, and then create the ultimate tart for sharing with pals.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon more for drizzling
1 tablespoon organic unsalted butter
½ pound fresh assorted wild mushrooms, chopped, about 2 cups
2 tablespoons dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces artisanal goat cheese, crumbled, about ½ cup
2 whole marinated roasted red peppers, diced, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Unfold the puff pastry sheet and place onto a lightly floured work surface. Roll out to a rectangle about 12 by 14-inches. Transfer the pastry sheet to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roll up the edges on the pastry and crimp to form a decorative crust. Place the baking sheet into the fridge while you prepare the mushrooms.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. When melted, add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Remove the baking sheet from the fridge. Place the cooled mushrooms onto the pastry. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Sprinkle with diced roasted red pepper and fresh thyme leaves. Drizzle the tart with olive oil. Bake until the crust is puffed and golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cut the tart into 8 pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Servings: 8 as an appy, 4 for lunch
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Sources and Substitutions
You can stack your tart with any of your favorite ingredients. Caramelized onions with slices of heirloom tomato are a fabulous combination; so is sautéed zucchini with sun-dried tomatoes and a shaving of Parmesan cheese.

Spinach and Cannellini Bean Dip with Endive Leaves

Sautéed spinach brightens up this traditional bean dip. Lemon juice makes it even sunnier.

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 2 more for dip
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, about 4 cups
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled (insert text) and minced, about 1 tablespoon
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Juice of ½ large lemon, about 2 tablespoons
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Endive leaves
Pita chips

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 5 minutes. Place the spinach into the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic, cannellini beans and lemon juice. Pulse to combine. With the machine running, slowly pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve the dip at room temperature. Peel the leaves from the endive heads and place around the dip. Place pita chips in a bowl alongside the dip.

Serves a crowd
Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Recipe Knock-Off

Dear Fellow Foodie,

Here in the mountains of NC, there’s a different flow to things. The weekends are jam packed; houseguests arrive on Friday, Saturday activities begin at dawn and the rest of the F-U-N flows into the evening. Sunday comes along way too quickly, and a leisurely brunch is definitely in order. As guests depart and the realty of Monday looms, Sunday supper lends itself to being oh-so casual.

Monday thru Friday is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Many of us travel during the week – but for those of us left in town, a mini-weekday party is one hot ticket. This week, it’s my turn to host my gal pals for a casual Tuesday supper. I’m feelin’ the creative juices flow, but could still use some inspiration. It comes by way of gorgeous magazine pictures, a recent delicious restaurant meal, a favorite cookbook (usually one of the Southern Junior League ones), and, of course, from the Food Network.

As I mused over what to prepare for “da girls”, I caught the end of a Rachael Ray show where she was preparing one of her 30-minute meals. The meal involved shrimp wrapped in prosciutto , tossed with penne pasta. The final dish looked fresh and yummy. I was inspired. Of course, me being me, I simply could not prepare Rachael’s shrimp and pasta dish and then pass it off as mine…. could I? Nope, ‘cause that’s not the way I cook. If the truth be known, I probably don’t have the attention span needed to follow a recipe without adding a bit of this and deleting a bit of that.

So, in deference to my environment, my dish differed from Rachael’s, mostly due to local ingredients. I used apple smoked bacon in place of the prosciutto, baby heirloom tomatoes in place of grape tomatoes, fresh North Carolina shrimp, capellini in place of penne pasta, sautéed mushrooms and baby spinach (it’s all about the veggies…) and of course the BIG change: I turned the sauce into a cream sauce….. it was, as Rachel says, “YUMMO!!” To balance the creaminess of the dish, I served my choice for a side dish: broccoli rabe, bathed in an anchovy and crushed red pepper based sauce. Dessert was a simple fruit tart. We opened a bottle of (my favorite, but unfortunately not related) Morgan 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and poured liberally. Good F-U-N was had by all!

You can prepare my RRKO (Rachael Ray Knock Off) shrimp dish for your family “in thirty minutes or less”, or you can spend a couple of extra seconds, like I did, and really enjoy creating something delicious in your kitchen. The lesson for us foodies to take away from here, is that a recipe is not written in pasta – I mean stone. I use recipes merely as guidelines and enjoy changing ingredients with what I have on hand, or what I find fresh in the market. Rachael’s prosciutto wrapped shrimp would be just as mouth pleasing on a hors d’oeuvre platter as it is in a pasta dish. Her stewed tomato-wine sauce could just as easily be ladled over your favorite sautéed fish fillet rather than her cooked penne. You could easily substitute scallops in place of shrimp, canned tomatoes in place of fresh, or red wine in place of white. By messing around with ingredients, you broaden your weekday meal repertoire.

Now, fellow foodie, I bid you to go forth and find your inspiration, create YFRKO (Your Favorite Recipe Knock Off) and feel free to share the results with the rest of us “more-than-thirty-minute cooks”… we’re sure to enjoy!!

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp in Creamy Tomato Sauce over Cappellini

The commonplace shrimp is transformed into a 5-star ingredient in this simple, yet satisfying, elegantly presented dish.

1 pound fresh extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 26 to 30)
Juice of I large lemon, about 1/3 cup
¾ pound apple wood smoked bacon (about 12 to 14 slices)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons organic butter, divided (you can substitute with half olive oil, half butter!)
½ pound fresh assorted wild mushrooms, sliced, about 2 cups
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced, about
2 pints baby heirloom tomatoes
1 cup dry white wine
½ pound baby spinach leaves chopped, about 2 cups

1 pound cappellini pasta
1 cup organic half and half
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

Sprinkle the shrimp with lemon juice. Lay the bacon onto a cutting board and cut the slices into thirds. Wrap each shrimp in bacon and place onto a platter. Season the shrimp with paprika, salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet (with lid) over medium high heat. Cook the bacon-wrapped shrimp, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes total. Depending on the size of your skillet, you may have to do this in batches. Remove the shrimp to a platter and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until golden, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the remaining butter to the skillet and cook the mushrooms until golden, about 5 to 6 minutes more. (TIP: Let the mushrooms sit in the pan for a couple of minutes before you stir them. They will caramelize and turn golden. If you stir them around right away, they will not color as well.) Add the tomatoes to the pan and pour in the wine. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and cook until the tomatoes begin to burst, about 8 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Season with salt. Cook the capellini until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.

Remove the lid from the pan with the sauce. Stir in the spinach leaves. Add the half and half and place the bacon-wrapped shrimp back into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

To serve, use a pasta spoon to twist a handful of cappellini into the center of a pasta bowl. Ladle the shrimp and sauce onto and around the pasta. Grate fresh Parmesan cheese over top, dazzle with an extra grind of fresh pepper and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

Yield: About 6 servings as a main course
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Sources and Substitutions
You can substitute with scallops or cod pieces in place of shrimp. Feel free to use any and all veggies in the sauce.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lobster - THE Maine Event

The Maine Lobster Council boasts of having the most delicious lobster in the world, and there was a time when you had to travel to Maine just to see if they were right. Flash forward to today when, last weekend, my entire family convened at our mountain house, and one simple phone call brought the world’s finest crustaceans to our front door – enough for Saturday night’s supper. Steak and Lobster night is a long standing tradition for us Morgan’s…. and in true Morgan fashion, we felt the need to include good friends in our celebration.

Combining those jet-setting lobsters with simple, locally grown products, makes for a simple, yet stunning dinner menu. And so, early Saturday morning, me, son Jonathan and granddaughter, Mallory, woke early, grabbed a few totes and made our way to the Boone Farmer’s Market to take stock of the fresh produce from the local farmers. We sampled several flavors of artisanal goat cheese and settled on the Herbs de Provence flavor to be served as our appy. We also purchased two varieties of homemade hummus, a basket of newly planted fresh herbs, ripe tomatoes for our garden salad and a great big, warm-from-the-oven cinnamon bun for Mallory (and Jon) to nibble on.

Safely back at home, we were greeted by the UPS delivery dude, who carefully unloaded a box of still-squiggling, jet lagged whole lobsters. My lobster provider of choice is The Lobster Guy. I have ordered from this site many times and have been thoroughly pleased with every purchase. The lobsters were HUGE and scrumptious. We housed them in their cooler, on the outdoor covered deck, where they were kept safe and sound for the better part of the day.
In order to spend the most time with my family and guests that evening, I prepared many of the dishes in advance. I husked ears of corn and brushed each one with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and pepper – all ready for their date with the grill. I baked and then stuffed potatoes – so they required only a finishing roast. The salad ingredients were washed, peeled, and chopped and lovingly arranged in a salad bowl. The simple vinaigrette made from grainy mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper and a palm full of fresh dill was whisked with just enough olive oil to splash onto each bite. Just to take the meal over the top, I served perfectly grilled beef tenderloins alongside of the lobster. I marinated the beef in a combination of Worcestershire sauce, crushed garlic, fresh parsley and olive oil.

Then there were those lobsters … I had planned to boil them in a large pot on the stove: however, grilling was on my mind – so I came up with plan “B”, which would now become my plan “A”. I did boil the water, and each one took his swim, but after the dunking, I removed the slightly under-cooked lobsters to a roasting pan and allowed them to cool slightly. I broke apart the tails and the claws and discarded the bodies. I persuaded son, Trey, to do the honors and equipped him with a mallet, a heavy towel and a wooden cutting board, directing him to the back porch (so as not to wake the babies from their nap). He cracked the claws in several places and placed them back into the roasting pan. With scissors, I cut through the spiny tail and carefully loosened the meat. Son Christopher’s girlfriend brilliantly discovered a way to squeeze the tail meat from the shell (rather than prod it out) and our hands were saved!! When the lobsters were prepared, I drizzled the whole lot with olive oil, fresh lemon juice and generously seasoned them with sea salt and coarse pepper.

As the group gathered, sipping wine and nibbling appys, Jon and I lit the grill and the final stages of cooking were underway. He roasted the lobster claws and tails on the hot grill just long enough to give each bite a bit of smokiness. The beef was seared, the corn was charred, the salad tossed and the potatoes pulled from the oven. Melted butter was poured for all – and the meal was served and devoured.

Another Morgan tradition happily transpired and the only question on everybody’s lips was, “Can …we do it again next week??”

If you would like to see more step-by-step pictures of how to grill lobster tail you can check out my AT HOME ENTERTAINING recipe for Grilled Florida Lobster Tail with Garlicky Tomato Sauce (page 130). Here's another FUN tip: I used the leftover lobster meat, all of the rosy shells and my AT HOME ENTERTAINING recipe for Lobster Bisque (page 274) to make a hearty soup for everyone to take away on the trip home. A satisfying YUMM was had by all.......
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