Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Black Hat Society Tea

Last year, the spouse started a tradition of doing a tea for Halloween. Riffing on the Red Hat Society and their penchant for teas, she decided there needed to be a Black Hat Society tea for witches. The picture to the left was the inspiration for the party. We borrowed a friend's new place, which is a retired firehouse, to have room for 30 people. The ladies wore a great variety of hats; witches' hats, top hats, classic ladies' hats, and more.

For the food, we wanted to focus on fall flavors. Last year, we made pumpkin the theme, with a pumpkin dish in each course. This year, we chose apple as the theme flavor.We followed a traditional order of courses; savory, scone, and sweet. In this post, I will put up pictures and descriptions of the items, detailed recipes will follow in additional posts.

Savory Course

We made four items for the savory course; cold apple soup,pumpkin bread with walnut butter and pear, broiled open face Swiss and Canadian bacon sandwiches, and stuffing rounds with roast turkey. The savory course was paired with Scottish Breakfast tea. This is a hearty, robust blend of black teas.

Cold Apple Soup with Apple Schnapps Creme

This soup is based on granny smith apples, flavored with moscato, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and honey. The cream is lightly whipped, with some sour apple schnapps to kick up the apple flavor. It was served chilled. The most frequent comment was that it tasted like a really kick-ass apple sauce.

Pumpkin Bread with Walnut Butter and Pear

I made pumpkin bread, which we sliced thin, and topped with a homemade walnut butter, and a slice of fresh pear. This had a great balance of textures and flavors. The crispness of the pear contrasted well with the soft bread and creamy walnut butter. The little touch of bitterness in the nut butter helped balance out the sweetness of the pear and bread.  I think this was a really nice bit of fall in a bite.

Open Faced Canadian Bacon and Swiss Sandwiches

This is a variation on a sandwich my grandfather used to make. The base is one half of an English muffin. A thin layer of a spicy condiment goes next. My grandfather used Mrs. Renfro's Chow Chow, but that is very hard to come by outside of Texas. For this version we used chipotle jelly. Next is a piece Canadian bacon, topped with a piece of Swiss cheese. Finally, a thin layer of spicy mustard. The sandwich is then broiled until the cheese is bubbly and a little caramelized. We  quartered the sandwiches, as the point of the event was small bites.

Stuffing Rounds with Roast Turkey and Cranberry Mustard

I wanted to create a taste of thanksgiving in one bite. I also wanted to continue to expand on what can be used as a base for tea sandwiches. Sage stuffing is one of my top comfort foods, and will definitely be a future post. The round is a little savory bread pudding, flavored with basil, oregano, thyme, onion, celery, and sage. It's topped with a slice of roast turkey, and a little cranberry mustard.

Scone Course

We made three scones for the scone course. I wanted to use the scone course to transition from savory to sweet. We started with a savory cilantro-pepita pesto scone. Next, we presented a pecan-brown sugar scone with molasses butter, and ended with a caramel apple pie scone. A friend made some Devonshire cream to go along with the sweet scones. The scone course was paired with a white tea. This is a light, delicate tea.

Cilantro-Pepita Pesto Scones

For this scone, I made a pesto of cilantro, pepitas, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. This was then incorporated that into the batter for the scones. The cilantro was prevalent but not overwhelming, and gave a great flavor.

Brown Sugar-Pecan Scones

The first sweet scone was a brown sugar-pecan scone. It was mildly sweet, and very nutty. I made a molasses butter to go along with it, to get that pecan pie flavor. They were a hit. They also went well with the Devonshire cream.

Caramel Apple Pie Scones

The final, and sweetest, scone was a caramel apple pie scone. Made with chunks of apple, and with apple juice and buttermilk as the liquid, they were very moist. They were flavored with typical apple pie spices, then glazed with an apple juice powdered sugar glaze, and finally lightly drizzled with homemade caramel. They were a huge hit. The under ten crowd, in particular, loved them.

Sweet Course

We also did three items for the sweet course. These were all the work of the spouse, I can only take credit for final assembly. Continuing with the apple theme, the first sweet was a sparkling cider pound cake, followed by sweet potato tarts with vanilla whipped cream, and finishing on a light note with Lady Grey tea cookies. The sweet course was paired with a Papaya and Passion Fruit tea. We wanted something sweeter, and a little fruity, for the sweet course.

Sparkling Cider Pound Cake

These are a lovely cake, both flavored and partially leavened by sparkling apple cider. The spouse also added a bit of sour apple schnapps, to up the apple flavor. The spouse used a mini bundt pan, to produce delightful little individual cakes.

Sweet Potato Tarts

The next sweet was a sweet potato tart with vanilla flavored whipped cream. The spouse used a biscotti crumb crust on the bottom. The sweet potato was rather laboriously shoved through a sieve, to remove the more fibrous material, and lighten the tarts.

Lady Grey Tea Cookies

We wanted to end on a light note, so the final sweet was Lady Grey tea cookies. This is sort of a shortbread, flavored with Lady Grey tea. The more delicate citrus notes of that tea are very refreshing, and a bit subtler than Earl Grey tea. They are lightly frosted.

Recipes will follow in subsequent posts.

This was a great event, and I'm already looking forward to next year.

Happy Eating!


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Islamic Medieval Dinner 2

As I've mentioned before, I am co-ordinating a medieval Islamic banquet next month, and I am testing out recipes. Previous experiments can be seen here and here. This time, I was working on recipes for chicken with pistachios, carrots and leeks with tahini, and lentils with taro and chard.

The chicken was diced, sauteed, then covered with chicken stock and simmered a bit with the coarsely chopped pistachios. I like it, but I think it is crying out for just a hint of cardamom. I think that would really pop the pistachios.

The carrots and leeks are simmered in vegetable stock, and spiced with tahini, nutmeg, clove, pepper, and ginger. I think next time I will get the carrots almost done before adding the leeks.

Taro is an interesting beast. The skin is quite tough, but the buggers are slippery as heck when peeled. According to sources on the web, some people react to the raw taro, which can cause an itching sensation on the hands, or in the mouth, if eaten under-cooked. I did not learn this until after I peeled and diced them, so apparently I am not one of those people. They can have a slimy texture, but I found that if boiled to tender, then drained and rinsed, they can have the same texture as boiled potato. Chard really has two components, the leaf and the stem. Both are delicious, but need to be handled differently. I diced up the thick stems, and sauteed them in  oil for a few minutes, until tender. The leaf I just rough chopped, then added to the lentils just at the end of cooking. The cooked taro was added just before serving, as well.These were quite good. The spouse said they were the star of the plate.


Chicken with Pistachios

2 chicken breasts, diced
1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
1 cup chicken stock
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. olive oil

In a skillet, saute chicken in olive oil over medium-high heat until half way done. Add stock, pistachios, and salt, cook until chicken is cooked but tender.

Carrots and Leeks with Tahini

5 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch wide, 4 inch long pieces
white part of 1 large leek, quartered and cut into 4 inch long pieces
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp. tahini
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
a pinch of clove
salt to taste

In a saucepan, simmer carrots in stock until mostly tender. Add leeks and spices. Cook until both carrots and leeks are tender. Drain, toss with tahini and salt.

Lentils with Taro and Chard

1 cup lentils
4 small taro roots
5 leaves of chard
2 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
salt to taste
1 tbsp. oil

Peel and dice taro. (Care should be used with raw taro, it can cause itching. Safest to wear gloves). In a saucepan simmer taro in 4 cups water, until tender,  15 to 20 minutes. Drain, then rinse thoroughly. Set aside.

Separate chard stems from leaves. Dice stems, chop leaves into roughly 1 inch square pieces. Saute stems in oil over medium heat until tender. Set aside.

Simmer lentils in stock until tender, between 15 and 20 minutes. add water as necessary to keep lentils covered. When tender, stir in taro, chard stems, and chard leaves. Cook until chard leaves are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Salt to taste.

Happy Eating!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Easy Flat bread

I'm co-ordinating a medieval Islamic feast next month, so I am experimenting with some recipes before hand. Some of my previous experiments can be seen here. The kitchen we are using has two pizza ovens, so I'm interested to see if we can bake our own flat bread. I looked around the web at a number of recipes, and decided to base mine on this one, which uses the dough recipe here. It really is one of the easiest bread recipes I've ever made, and pretty fast, too. It took me 22 minutes to bake 8 rounds, with four in the oven at a time. The dough takes a total of 20 minutes to produce.

Easy Flat bread

2 cups warm water
1 pkg. yeast
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
5 cups flour
1/4 cup canola oil

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix water, yeast, sugar, salt, and 2 cups flour. Cover with a warm, damp cloth and let stand ten minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 550 degrees.

Add 3 cups of flour, and oil to bowl. Place on mixer with a dough hook. Let dough hook work dough on medium speed for ten minutes.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Dough will be soft and a little sticky. Work in just enough flour to make dough handleable. Divide into eight balls. Roll out balls one at a time to 1/8 inch thick.
Place  flat bread on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake until lightly brown on top, about 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool on a cooling rack.

My Refridgerator Runneth Over

Our CSA provided us with a rather voluminous bounty this week. Still transitioning from summer to autumn. Got two heads of lettuce. I have such a surfeit of lettuce, any good ideas beyond the usual? Getting more of the sturdier greens; kale, rainbow chard, and beet greens. Moving to fall squashes; got a nice butternut squash, and some lovely round yellow squash. I found that they make a great vegetarian meal, as squash Parmesan. Lots of fresh rosemary and cilantro. One yellow, and one white onion. Three beets, which may be pickled. Radish sprouts, which I love. And, finally, another favorite of mine, wax beans. As always, I'm open to suggestions, if anyone has any great ideas to use this bounty up, post a comment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grilled Chicken Strata

Some friends stayed over at our place Friday, and as we had a busy day planned Saturday, I wanted to make a hearty breakfast, but still keep it simple. Strata is a great way to do this. Strata is a savory bread pudding, and, like quiche (which is another post), it is infinitely flexible. This version used grilled chicken, but it is great with bacon, ham, sausage, ground meat, or even just vegetables. I usually use onion, garlic, and peppers. It's one of the reasons to keep old bread.
Grilled Chicken Strata
1 cup diced grilled chicken
2 1/2 dried bread cubes
3 cherry peppers, diced
1/2 large white onion, diced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. prepared spicy brown mustard
1 tsp. kosher salt
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a well greased 8 inch glass or ceramic baking dish, scatter bread cubes. Distribute chicken, onion, and peppers over bread cubes.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, mustard, and salt. Gently pour over bread cubes. Spread cheese over the top. Bake until custard is set, and cheese is melted, about 40 minutes.
Happy Eating!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Turkey Meatball Stroganoff

I wanted to do something hearty and simple last night, so went with meatball stroganoff. I had a pound of ground turkey defrosted that needed used up. I love beef stroganoff, but this recipe helps cut back on the fat. I substitute non-fat Greek yogurt for the sour cream. I used a can of Progresso Recipe Starters Creamy Portobello Mushroom instead of mushroom soup, because I had it. I think it produced a rich, creamy sauce. I also used Amish Country Kitchen Homestyle Noodles. These are a thicker, more robust noodle than most commercial egg noodles, and held up to the sauce quite well.

I made a green salad of mixed leaf lettuce, zucchini, yellow cherry tomatoes, and cherry peppers. I had a bit of pepper roulette with that salad. I tasted one, and it was sweet and not at all hot. I cut up a second one, and did not try it. I was a bit surprised by a bit of heat when I had the salad, although not unpleasantly.

Turkey Meatball Stroganoff

For meatballs:
1 lb. ground turkey
1 small white onion, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
2/3 cup fine bread crumbs

For the sauce:
1 package sliced fresh mushrooms
1 can Progresso Recipe Starters Creamy Portobello Mushroom
3/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Make meatballs by mixing together meatball ingredients, and forming into approximately one inch diameter balls. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons canola oil. Brown meatballs, then remove from pan. Turn heat down to medium. De-glaze pan with red wine. Add mushroom sauce, yogurt, paprika, salt, and pepper. Add mushrooms, return meatballs to pan. Cook until mushrooms are tender, and sauce has thickened. Serve over egg noodles.

Happy Eating!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Stuffed Pumpkin

One thing I always look forward to in the fall is pumpkins. When the spouse and I were newly married, we saw stuffed pumpkin in a cookbook. Intrigued, we tried it, and loved it. So, we make at least one every fall. Our CSA gave us a lovely little pumpkin in our last box. I use ground meat and rice, with onion, peppers, garlic, and herbs. The pumpkin itself is very nice with a little butter.

A great side benefit is the seeds. I rinse them thoroughly, making sure to separate them from any flesh. I spread the damp seeds on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle them with kosher salt and chili powder. I bake them in a 350 degree oven until crispy, about 10 minutes. they are a great snack.

Stuffed Pumpkin

1 10 inch diameter pumpkin
3 cups cooked rice
1 lb. ground turkey
1 medium white onion
2 medium yellow sweet peppers
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Cut off top, remove seeds and loose flesh. Save the seeds for later. Brown meat, when mostly done, add onion and cook a few minutes. Add peppers, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper, cook until onion and peppers are tender. Let meat cool.

Mix rice, meat mixture, and egg. Stuff mixture into pumpkin. Excess stuffing can be placed in a loaf pan, and bake with the pumpkin for the last 1/2 hour.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place pumpkin in a shallow baking dish with about 3/4 inch of water. Bake until pumpkin is tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.

Remove from oven, let rest five minutes before slicing to serve. One pumpkin this size feeds three.

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spicy Pear Empanadas

In my wine class last week, we were covering the wines of Argentina and Chile. I always like to make something typical of the region, like the red cabbage for Germany. Looking around, I found pear empanadas were considered a typical dessert for Chile. My recipe is based off of this one I found on The cheesy, salty pastry contrasts nicely with the sweet, spicy filling. I made a double batch, getting twenty seven empanadas, so figure 12 to 14 from one batch. It went really well with the Chilean whites, especially a Carmenere and a Torrontes.

Spicy Pear Empanada

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated aged cotija cheese
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
12 tsp. butter, chilled, cut into small cubes
1 egg yolk
up to  1/3 cup ice water

6 ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 small lime, cut in half
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 whole cloves
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1 egg yolk
1 tbsp. heavy cream

to make pastry:
In the bowl of a food processor, add flour, cheese, salt, and butter. Pulse several times, processing until flour mix resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolk and two teaspoons water. Pulse several times. Add water, one teaspoon at a time, pulsing several times bettweeen each, until dough just starts to come together. Remove from processor, form into two disks. Wrap disks in plastic wrap, refridgerate for at least one hour.

To make filling:
Place all ingredients except vanilla in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated, and pears are tender. Remove from heat, remove lime halves and cloves, and stir in vanilla. Let cool.

To make empanadas:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together egg yolk and cream to makre glaze.

Working with one disk of dough at a time, roll out dough to under 1/4 inch thickness. If dough is too crumbly to work, dampen and fold a few times. Cut into 3 inch rounds. Place 1 tsp. of filling on each round. dampen edges, fold and press to seal. Use a fork to press the edges.  Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet, and brush with glaze. Bake 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown.

First Fall Harvest

We got our first box of produce for fall from our CSA. ?Starting to transition from summer to fall produce. Still getting peppers(both sweet and hot), tomatoes, and lettuce (head and mixed leaf), but also getting bitter greens, this time kale, sunflower sprouts, a couple of white onions, a pile of zucchini, cilantro, and a small baking pumpkin. I'm excited for the pumpkin, because I will be stuffing and baking that. Look for that in an upcoming post.