Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shrimp Bisque And The Wrath Of Mother Nature

The other night, I felt a little bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as the hurricane force 80 mph wind shook my house. While the rain pounded, I was grateful that it wasn't snow like places just south and inland were getting. Then it's counted in feet and not inches. The next morning I went out to assess the damage and found some of my window screens littering the yard. A neighbors fence fell just a few feet away from my car and some huge pine tree branches just graced it on the other end as they hit my electrical lines. Miraculously, I still had electricity. But...why does my car all of a sudden have good car Karma?? Maybe it knows it is on it's way to car heaven soon! Anywaaaay....I had to go to the local market and since I knew it was an astronomical high tide along with the storm surge, I brought my camera. The sun was out, but the storm hadn't finished with it's ravage. The surf roared over the street, flooding it as it hit the houses in it's way. Tree branches were scattered all over the streets and one of our favorite beaches succumbed to the high waves. You could actually swim in the parking lot now. Where we sit on benches on a hot summer's day, looked solemn with each passing wave. As the tide receded, I wiped the sea spray from my camera and made my way to the store. I had intended on buying scallops for a bisque, but some fresh wild caught shrimp were on sale for $5.99 a pound. Change of plan...change of recipe...I would make Tyler Florence's Shrimp Bisque. It has orange in it, so I grabbed one of those. Orange and shrimp together are such happy flavors. I already had brandy, another happy flavor, so I just needed some leeks to fill in the blanks. Tyler calls for chives to garnish it, but I thought a few basil leaves from my kitchen basil plant sounded better....and they were. This bisque is fresh, sunny and just can't fool with Mother Nature.I hope all facing the aftermath of this storm and the other wrathful acts of Mother Nature, have an anchor to help get them through.

Shrimp Bisque
(adapted from Tyler Florence)

1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, in the shell
1 orange, rinsed well
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks, trimmed,halved lengthwise, and rinsed well
1 onion, trimmed, peeled and halved
2 celery stalks, cut into big chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup brandy
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells; refrigerate shrimp until ready to use. Using a vegetable peeler, peel several strips of orange zest and grate the remaining zest. Cover and refrigerate the grated zest for garnish.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and melt the butter into it. Add the shrimp shells, leeks, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, bay leaf, strips of orange zest, tomato paste and cayenne. Cook, stirring often, until the shells are red and the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Take the pot off of the heat and carefully pour in the brandy. Return the pot to medium heat , cook for a minute more, then sprinkle in the flour. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Now add water to cover, about 2-3 cups and deglaze, scraping up all of the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Immediately turn the heat down to low and simmer gently until the soup is reduced and thickened, 30-45 minutes. Strain into a clean pot and season with salt and pepper.

When you are ready to serve, return the bisque to simmer, add the shrimp, and cook for 2-3 minutes, just to cook the shrimp through. Give the bisque a final taste for seasoning, pour it into warmed soup bowls and serve garnished with the reserved orange zest and the chives.

Diane's notes:
I prefer basil instead of chives for the garnish, if you have some on hand. I also added some paprika to enhance the color and flavor. I just added a small amount at a time until the look and taste had more depth. Instead of deglazing the pan with water, I used a high quality fish stock or clam juice. Add more tomato paste for your taste. Since acidic foods like orange and tomato mixed with cream can cause a slight curdling, just give it a good whisking before serving. The heavy cream may be substituted for half and half, or any combination of milk or cream that suits your taste. To give the shrimp more flavor, I dusted them with paprika and gave them a quick cook over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet. This sears them with a nice crust and gives them a crunch at the first bite.

Shrimp Bisque recipe, click here.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Baked Chèvre With Pink Peppercorns

Warm baked chèvre or goat cheese, sliced and breaded is a staple on many French bistro menus, and I'm glad of it. It's creamy and tangy taste just gets better when warmed. Usually served on top of toasted bread with salad greens with a light vinaigrette, you'd think it couldn't get any better. I wanted to serve it warm but not individually, so I added in a little cream and some mixed shredded cheese. That mixture went into a small French casserole to heat under the broiler to form a light golden crust. A few pink peppercorns that I bought in Paris at a favorite spice shop, sprinkled on top gave it a punch of color and peppery taste. I roasted some baby red peppers, and plunked one right into the warm cheese. Bread sticks served along the side work well for dipping.
Baked Chèvre with Pink Peppercorns

4 ounces goat cheese log, room temperature
1 tablespoon cream
1 tablespoon finely grated mixed Italian blend cheese
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns

In a bowl mix together the goat cheese, cream and grated cheese. Put in an oven proof baking dish such as a large ramekin. Place on a tray or foil and broil in toaster oven for about 5 minutes or until golden brown. Don't let it get too hot or the cheese will "break" and become grainy.

Top with pink peppercorns and garnish with a baby roasted pepper.
Serve with bread sticks, crostini or crackers.

Makes about 5 ounces.
Hand painted French plate is Terre è Provence.
Small French baking dish (covered) is Insea.
Both were bought at Marshall's. I love Marshall's!

Baked Chèvre with Pink Peppercorns recipe, click here.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lemon Sunshine

I like easy and this microwave lemon curd is a big easy. When I first saw it on La Table de Nana's site (take a peek, you'll love it!), it intrigued me with it's versatility as well as it's ease. I had just bought some big lemons. They weren't the biggest lemons I have bought. No, no, no, the biggest lemon I've bought was my car! Two days ago it was in the shop yet again. If you follow me, you may remember in October how it broke down on the New York Thruway, 5 hours from home. I should have sold it then, but now my mechanic says it has to go, after just 44,000 miles. I came home a little stunned at the urgency, and once again I had lemons on my mind. I needed a diversion, an easy diversion. I had some sugar cookie dough already made in the freezer and in 10 minutes I could be rolling out cookies while the lemon curd magically cooked in the microwave. Done deal! I sandwiched this lemon velvet between 2 sugar cookies and had sunshine on a plate. Now does anyone have any suggestions for a new 2010 car? A sweet one, please.

This is for my Saturday Blog Showcase hosted by Ann at Thibeault's Table and Lori at All That Splatters. Every Saturday they take turns hosting this event, where we make a recipe from another blogger.
This week Ann is the host. So grab a cup of coffee and be prepared to sit a spell here. Thanks Ladies!

Microwave Lemon Curd

1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of 3 lemons, finely grated
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and butter. Cook in the microwave for one minute intervals, stirring after each minute until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from the microwave, and pour into small sterile jars. Store for up to three weeks in the refrigerator.

Makes about 3 cups.

Microwave Lemon Curd recipe, click here.
Sugar Cookie recipe, click here.

Blue and white plate by Royal Copenhagen.
Citrus press is French white porcelain.
Lemon sunshine by La Table de Nana.
Car by Volkswagen.
Peace of mind when I get rid of the car...Priceless!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cherry Almond Low Fat Granola

It's that time of year again to send a care package to my daughter who lives in Seoul, South Korea. I went to the mall yesterday (a rarity for me) to get a few requested items. Sephora was first on the list and then I went on an OPI nail polish hunt. Of course, there has to be food involved in this package. She wants some good ol' comfort food like Annie's Mac 'n Cheese and then on the exotic end, Indian spices from London. Since she loves healthy food, I am making granola with some of her favorite ingredients. My son is coming home for college spring break next week, so I'm making a large batch. It is low fat and packed with whole grains. I often make it with just old fashioned oats, but today I used a combination of 50% oats, 23% wheat flakes, 17% barley flakes and 10% rice flakes. And how do I know those exact percentages you ask? Ha, I bought an 8 cup bag of mixed grains that listed the percentages. You may use a favorite combination of grains or just old fashioned rolled oats. This granola is sweetened with honey and agave nectar. Agave nectar has the advantage of having a low glycemic index. If you can't find it, then maple syrup or all honey may be substituted. I think I'll feel a little better knowing she'll start her day in a healthful way....because you know, a mother never stops worrying.
Cherry Almond Low Fat Granola

8 cups old fashioned rolled oats, or a combination of mixed grain flakes
1 cup pecans
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup agave nectar

1 cup dried unsweetened cherries
1/2 cup dried blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a 11x17x1 inch nonstick sheet pan.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, cinnamon, pecans, almonds, and coconut. Add the honey and agave nectar while stirring to mix thoroughly.
Make sure all of the honey and agave nectar are evenly mixed in. Spread on the sheet pan and put in the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until golden brown, stirring about every 5 minutes. Be careful it doesn't burn or get too brown around the edges. Once it is a golden brown color, take out of the oven and add the dried fruit. Let cool, put in an airtight covered container and store for up to 2 weeks.

Serve for breakfast with milk or yogurt or eat it just plain for a quick snack.

Cherry Almond Low Fat Granola recipe, click here.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heart Of Gold....And A Winner!

Happy Valentines Day! I've been a miner for a heart of gold.....a pure chocolate heart of gold with velvety bittersweet chocolate, just like love. Eureka, I found it! The chocolate came to me not from St. Valentine, but crossed the ocean from Belgium as a gift. Kate from Serendipity sent it to a group of bloggers to make a Valentine creation. I don't think I even thought about what I'd make, I just knew. When you have fine chocolate, it doesn't need much dressing up in a recipe. One of my favorite ways to enhance a flavorful quality chocolate is to make truffles. Since it is Valentine's Day, a heart shaped truffle only seemed befitting. Then like a lover's soft touch that glitters with warmth, I brushed a dusting of gold dust that looks like it came from love fairies themselves. I gave them away in small origami boxes that I make, tied with a pretty ribbon. I can't wait to see all of the creations from the other bloggers, for the "Chocolate Valentines" event. Thank you Kate for the inspiration and the very tasty chocolate. She sent 3 different types of chocolate, with suggestions on which one would be best for eating, baking or making a "wicked hot chocolate". I used the artisanal bittersweet chocolate from La Maison Saive for the truffles. Kate thought that would be the best eating chocolate. The rich dark color with a slight gloss shone through the cellophane. The bite into the bar was a firm crunch. It had a rounded cocoa flavor and as the name implies, a slightly bittersweet and smooth finish. I could tell from the first bite that this would be the one for the truffles. My instincts were right. I am no longer searching for a heart of gold!
Heart Truffles

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
5 ounces heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar to dust
cocoa powder to dust
round tipped watercolor brush (I used a #6)
edible gold Luster Dust*
*available mail order from

Break the bittersweet chocolate into small pieces and process in a food processor until very fine. Heat the cream until just boiling and pour through the food processor feed tube in a steady stream, with the motor running. Add vanilla. Process just a few seconds, until smooth. Transfer to a bowl to firm. This should take a few hours at room temperature. You may also put it in the refrigerator. Once firm, using a 1 inch melon baller, scoop out balls of ganache and place on a parchment lined tray. Place in refrigerator to firm, about 30 minutes. Dust hands with powdered sugar and roll ball between your hands to smooth into a round ball. Dust with unsweetened cocoa powder. Chill again until firm to touch, but not all the way through. If they are too cold, they will crack when forming into hearts. Holding a round truffle with one hand, hold the end of your paintbrush horizontally and make an indentation into the top, while pinching the bottom into a point. Try to do this quickly, since the chocolate melts with the warmth of your hand. Continue shaping into a heart. Each one will have it's own personality and don't need to be uniform with each other. Place on a clean parchment lined tray or silicone mat, and chill again until slightly firm. Finish forming by smoothing them into a final shape. Scoop out a small amount of the gold luster dust into a separate dish. Dip the paintbrush into the gold dust and brush the truffle with it. Layer until the color you prefer is achieved. Put into small individual candy cups and store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Makes about 36.

Origami Boxes
Start with a square 6" x 6" (15cm x 15cm) origami paper. Flip the sheet so that the colored side is face down. Now make two mountain folds (a mountain fold is formed by folding the paper away from oneself) as shown. Using the mountain fold lines as guides, fold the four corners of the paper into its center. Then fold the right edge and the left edge into the center line. Fold the top edge down and the bottom edge up, as shown. Now undo the last two-and-a-half steps.Now comes the tricky part that makes the box. The center square will be the box bottom. Take the 2 small folded squares (just below and to the right and left of the top triangle), and fold in while folding the top part up, over and down. This will also bring the left and right sides up and form the sides and bottom of the box.Repeat on the other side. You now have the top of a 2x2 inch origami box! To make the bottom, do the same steps with a square piece of paper that is 1/4 inch smaller. I use sturdy paper, but not card stock. For the box above, I used origami paper, but I've made boxes from catalog covers, grocery bags, wrapping paper, greeting cards...just about anything. Recycle, re-use, repurpose. The paper has to be perfectly square for it to work, and have a non coated surface. I'd love to hear any of your ideas. for the Valentine Giveaway of the Nordic Ware Platinum Rose bundt pan, sponsored by CSN. The winner is........lostpastremembered!! Congratulations! Also many, many thanks to everyone who left a comment. This was really fun to do and I hope to do many more. My heart always tugs, as I want to give each and everyone the giveaway. Just an old sap, I guess ;-) Please email your address lostpastremembered, and I'll pass it along to the folks at CSN to mail the pan to you.

Thanks again Kate at Serendipity for hosting the "Chocolate Valentines" event.

Heart Truffles recipe, click here.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

For The Love Of Macarons♥

I love macarons. About 12 years ago, I tried my hand at making them. I used a recipe that was touted as being from the Queen of French macarons, Lauderee. I painstakingly followed the recipe and they came out like pancakes, with no pied, or foot and a grainy taste. Making them was put on the back burner since there had to be some secret that wasn't spelled out in the article. Since I love them so, I wanted to try making them again and did some research. I bought a book just on macarons and then after reading reviews of it on Amazon, I decided not to use it. My journey took me to Tartlette's blog and I devoured her article "Demystifying Macarons." She gives a full tutorial, which I followed almost to a T. I say almost because she calls for grinding your own almonds and I had already bought almond flour/meal, so I used that. They came out perfectly! They have the required pied, height and a nice glossy crust. Since Valentines' Day is approaching, I made some of them in a heart shape and the rest I made round. I filled them with 2 different fillings. One is a simple dark chocolate raspberry ganache, and the other is a white chocolate raspberry ganache. Both are equally delicious. The heart shapes are charming and easy to make, with the right movement of the pastry bag. I have tasted many a macaron all over Paris throughout the years. Recently I couldn't resist popping in when I saw McDonalds had a McCafe within their fast food venue right in the heart of Paris. I had to try one of their chocolate macarons, just out of curiosity. It was OK...dense with no depth of flavor.... and if I didn't know of the rich and delicate taste of an expertly made macaron, I may have even liked it...well, sort of.A few months ago after a full course meal with dessert at a favorite restaurant in Paris, the waiter brought my friends and I a plate of sweet delicacies. Oh, la, la...meringues, financiers and macarons. We all somehow found room. I, of course, had the macaron....the chocolate one! Have I mentioned I love macarons?

I Love...therefore I am!

Tartlette (thank you!) has such a wonderful article with a tutorial on making the macarons, that I will link to that article here. Just look for the a small box that has a "Desserts" magazine cover to the right on the page underneath archives and click on it. It is in pdf format.

I weighed all of the ingredients, since measuring can yield different amounts each time. After making the macaron batter, to make the hearts,
start out making a small circle, lessen the pressure of squeezing the bag as you pull the bag down diagonally and toward the center. Repeat by making a mirror image just next to it, so they connect. Make them small, since they spread. I used a large #6 piping tip. They came out to be about 2 inches long. If you have the tail at the bottom of the heart go one way, you'll need one to go the other way to match up when they are paired together. I made the White Chocolate Raspberry Ganache from Tartlette's recipe, but used less raspberry jam. To make Dark Chocolate Raspberry, just substitute dark chocolate for the white chocolate, and again I used less jam. I think you'll love them! I will be announcing the winner of my giveaway of the Rose Cake Pan on Valentine's if you haven't left a comment there to enter, you still have a few days.

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