Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fig and Marzipan Cream Tart




It has been a while since my last post, hasn't it?  Quite a few of my friends and followers have emailed and asked if I was coming back and to be honest, I wasn't really sure if I wanted to continue blogging or if this even means I will continue on a regular basis.  Many changes in our life have come into play these last few months, all good I may add, but it takes away from being able to visit other blog and of course, to write on my own.  I am asking your forgiveness for not visiting your sites to comment, but be assured I am still reading your posts when able.  Some of you who have been with me on here for the last 4 years will now notice that I no longer have commenting enabled on the blog.  If you have any questions or feel  the need to comment, you can find me on twitter and facebook.  I appreciate everyone for stopping by.

Now....onto the tart...

I made this for my husband who is a complete marzipan freak.  You can find marzipan in bars sometimes at your local grocery store or you can also find them at Cost Plus World Market.  Your best bet is to go there first and save yourself the driving around to find it.  You also can use almond paste should you not be able to find marzipan.  The tart was not too sweet and the creamy filling was my favorite part.  My husband taste tested with a second slice so I'm thinking that he enjoyed it as well!  If you feel the need, top with with a little whipped cream...or a lot.


Fig and Marzipan Cream Tart

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • 3 1/2 ounces marzipan paste or bar, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (it is really worth buying mascarpone instead of substituting with cream cheese)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 large or 12 small fresh figs, sliced, stems removed or 20 dried figs, reconstituted 
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam

Directions

Combine the flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, your lemon zest, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and then pulse until blended. Add in the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. While the machine is running, slowly add in the water until moist clumps form. Take the mixture out of the processor and place onto a work surface.  Form into a ball. Flatten the dough into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap and chill the dough for 1 hour.
In a clean food processor bowl, combine remaining sugar, marzipan paste (or tube, whatever form you may find), mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, and honey. Blend your mixture until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle. Place the dough to a big, heavy baking sheet and then spread the marzipan over the dough but leave a 2-inch border. Place the figs on top of the marzipan cream filling. Spoon the jam over the figs. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, and pleat and pinch the crust to seal cracks in the dough if there are any.
Bake until the crust is golden, about 35-40 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes and then use a spatula under the crust to lift the tart away from the parchment. Transfer the tart to a platter and serve.
*Adapted and tweaked from Giada

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chicken Madeira


Around here, life is changing quickly.  Kids are nearing the end of school with one transitioning onto middle school and another having a birthday.  Between karate tournaments and family engagements, I haven't been cooking or blogging much and I anticipate much of the same for the summer.  I hope to get some traveling and hopefully a couple photo expeditions with my husband in as well...if I am lucky enough!  Whatever you all may be doing these days, take some time to try this slice of deliciousness.  If you are a fan of chicken marsala, then this is pretty much in the same vein, just a little more piquant.  It pairs perfectly with asparagus and I also served it alongside an artichoke torta.  

Chicken Madeira

1 pound boneless, skinless thin sliced fillets, preferably organic
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup Madeira wine
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce

Place the flour on a large plate then lightly coat each chicken piece.  Shake off any excess and place onto a separate plate then repeat with the remaining pieces.
Melt your butter in a large saute pan over medium heat and place the chicken in the pan when the butter begins to foam.  Cook for 3 minutes, turn and cook another 3 or until cooked through.  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.
Combine the remaining sauce ingredients and add to your pan to let simmer until reduced by half, then return the chicken to the pan while turning to coat the chicken in the sauce.  Remove from the heat and serve.



Friday, May 13, 2011

Apple Spice Layer Cake with Clementine Buttercream



Sometimes simplicity is best. Those flavors that remind you of being young or a special occasion bring on that feeling of comfort and memories people you love. It is a reminder that not everything needs to be kicked up, changed and radically modified to satisfy a craving.



Case in point: this apple spiced cake with a clementine buttercream. The only modification I did was to use the clementines I had on hand instead of the oranges the original called for and omitted the walnuts in the batter. A deliciously tangy cream cheese filling is quite addictive and the buttercream packed with orange juice and zest will remind you of the summer days ahead. Go make some memories.

Apple Spiced Cake with Clementine Buttercream

For the Cake:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick (8tbsp) butter, softened at room temp
1-3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs at room temp
2 cups, peeled, cored and shredded apples (I used pink lady, my favorite)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk (I used whole milk)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, in my opinion)

Preheat your oven to 350F and grease the bottom of 3 8 inch cake pans. Then line the cake pans with parchment and grease the parchment.
In a large bowl, sift your flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in your eggs one at a time then stir in your apples and the vanilla.
Slowly add in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. (some people do this and end with the liquid but do as you please, I won't be offended). Fold in the chopped walnuts if you are using.
Pour into the prepared pans evenly and bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. It all depends on your oven, actually. Let the cakes cool in their pans for a few minutes then run a knife along the edges to loosen them, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely after taking off the paper.

For the Clementine Buttercream and Filling:
1 stick (8 tbsp) softened butter
1-1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 cup fresh orange juice
4 tsp grated clementine rind
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

To prepare the buttercream, beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy then add the sugar in alternating with the orange juice. Add in the 3 teaspoons of the clementine zest, the salt and vanilla. Mix well.
Start on your filling: In a small bowl, mash up the cream cheese until smooth. Add in 1/2 cup of the clementine buttercream mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon of zest then blend until smooth.
When ready to fill your cake, using a serrated knife, shave off the domed tops of your cakes should they have one. Place one layer on your serving plate and use half of the cream cheese filling, spreading to the edges of the layer. Place the second layer on top and use the remaining filling, once again, spreading to the edges. Place the last layer on top and using the clementine buttercream, frost the sides and top of the cake.

*Inspired by Epicurious, Eva's Kitchen and RecipeNut

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Apple Spice Cake with Clementine Buttercream




Sometimes simplicity is best.  Those flavors that remind you of being young or a special occasion bring on that feeling of comfort and memories people you love.  It is a reminder that not everything needs to be kicked up, changed and radically modified to satisfy a craving.


Case in point:  this apple spiced cake with a clementine buttercream.  The only modification I did was to use the clementines I had on hand instead of the oranges the original called for and omitted the walnuts in the batter.  A deliciously tangy cream cheese filling is quite addictive and the buttercream packed with orange juice and zest will remind you of the summer days ahead.  Go make some memories.

Apple Spiced Cake with Clementine Buttercream

For the Cake:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 stick (8tbsp) butter, softened at room temp
1-3/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs at room temp
2 cups, peeled, cored and shredded apples (I used pink lady, my favorite)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup milk (I used whole milk)
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional, in my opinion)

Preheat your oven to 350F and grease the bottom of 3 8 inch cake pans.  Then line the cake pans with parchment and grease the parchment.
In a large bowl, sift your flour, pumpkin pie spice, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add in your eggs one at a time then stir in your apples and the vanilla.
Slowly add in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour. (some people do this and end with the liquid but do as you please, I won't be offended).  Fold in the chopped walnuts if you are using.
Pour into the prepared pans evenly and bake for 35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. It all depends on your oven, actually.  Let the cakes cool in their pans for a few minutes then run a knife along the edges to loosen them, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely after taking off the paper.

For the Clementine Buttercream and Filling:
1 stick (8 tbsp) softened butter
1-1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 cup fresh orange juice
4 tsp grated clementine rind
1 tsp vanilla 
pinch of salt
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened

To prepare the buttercream, beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy then add the sugar in alternating with the orange juice.  Add in the 3 teaspoons of the clementine zest, the salt and vanilla.  Mix well.
Start on your filling: In a small bowl, mash up the cream cheese until smooth.  Add in 1/2 cup of the clementine buttercream mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon of zest then blend until smooth.
When ready to fill your cake, using a serrated knife, shave off the domed tops of your cakes should they have one.  Place one layer on your serving plate and use half of the cream cheese filling, spreading to the edges of the layer.  Place the second layer on top and use the remaining filling, once again, spreading to the edges.  Place the last layer on top and using the clementine buttercream, frost the sides and top of the cake.

*Inspired by Epicurious, Eva's Kitchen and RecipeNut



Monday, April 18, 2011

Cuban Ropa Vieja



The name Ropa Vieja literally means "old clothes" which seems perfectly fitting with the rag-like shredded meat piled on the plate, but this dish is anything but dodgy. A flank steak cooked to meltingly tender shreds lends a warming spice to any meat lovers palate. After not eating beef for quite some time, this dish just exploded with flavor for me. Served simply with tortillas or on its own with some cilantro-lime rice, it is one of those one-pot meals the family will enjoy. Loaded with red and green bell peppers, onions and just the right amount of cumin, garlic and tomato, this dish will keep you from ordering that boring take-out.




Cuban Ropa Vieja



1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds beef flank steak
1 cup beef broth
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 small onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar


Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Rub the flank steak with 1 tablespoon of cumin and then brown the flank steak on each side, about 4 minutes per side.

Transfer beef to a slow cooker. Pour in the beef broth and tomato sauce, then add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato paste, remaining 2 tablespoons cumin, cilantro, olive oil and vinegar into a small bowl. Stir until well blended then add to the crock pot. Cover, and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for up to 10 hours, you just want the beef to shred easily when pulled apart with a fork. When ready to serve, shred the meat and serve with tortillas or any appealing sides and condiments like cilanto-lime rice, black beans, sliced avocado and sour cream. Serve any remaining sauce alongside.

*Inspired from All-recipes, Epicurious, Eva's Kitchen and Food.com

Monday, March 28, 2011

Aubergine Slices with Pomegranate, Yogurt and Tahini


I won't pile on the details of my lovely Lebanese Great-Uncle although you would probably find him as interesting and wonderful as I do, but I will share a dish from his country instead. Vegetables are a huge part of Lebanese meals, be it celebratory or everyday stemming from the Christian rule where meat was to be consumed only at one meal or not at all. Even though such restrictions have been dropped decades ago, vegetables remain a huge part in the Lebanese kitchen. Roasted aubergines brushed with a tart pomegranate vinaigrette and topped with a lusciously creamy tahini yogurt, this dish is a great introduction to acquaint yourself with the foods of Lebanon.

My gorgeous friend Deb in northern England sent me this book for Christmas and I have been trying recipes ever since. Claudia Roden's books, and Arabesque in general, read like a travelogue full of cultural explanation along with enticing recipes. It is one of the best books I have come across in a very long time. This book includes recipes and history of Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon. If you are looking to expand your culinary horizons or try something out of your ordinary, I encourage you to pick up a copy.
*Lots of vegetarian recipes for those non-meat eaters.

Aubergine Slices with Pomegranate, Yogurt and Tahini
(Batinjan Bil Rumman Wal Laban)
Courtesy of Arabesque

4 medium aubergines (eggplants), cut into ½" rounds
1 tbs pomegranate molasses
1 tbs red or white wine vinegar

2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing eggplant
2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tbs tahini
¼ cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted lightly

Preheat oven to 475°F.

Brush both sides of the eggplant slices with olive oil and lightly salt them. Place on an oiled baking sheet and bake, turning once, until they're tender and a little brown, about 30 minutes. Arrange on a platter.
In a small bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, vinegar and 2 tbs olive oil.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, minced garlic and tahini.
Brush the top of the cooked eggplant slices with the pomegranate vinaigrette, then spoon yogurt sauce over them and sprinkle with your pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Colcannon


Even though I normally talk of my Italian grandmother, Italian food and all things Italian that apply in my life, I never talk about the fact that I am half Irish as well. Both of my grandfathers are Irish where both of my grandmothers are Italian. Quite the combination, let me tell you. I believe I inherited more Irish traits than Italian (although the grandmothers may deny that just on principle): Loads of red in my hair and the quick-fire temper that fizzles as soon as it starts, to name just a couple. My daughter got the freckles like my red haired Papa. Small things, but they are important to me. I can't say I grew up on big Irish dinners but I do remember my maternal grandfather baking his mother's bread rolls, or Irish Buns as he called them. Lucky for me, I inherited that recipe from Papa, written in my great-grandmother's handwriting. While it isn't the most legible, it is one of my most treasured family recipes. My remaining grandpa promised to take me to Ireland one day, but he now unfortunately is too ill to travel. One day I will go and bring back stories and photos for him so he can armchair travel and dream.

This year I decided to honor the Irish in me by starting a new tradition to cook their foods more often. I started with Colcannon just in time for St. Patrick's day. While colcannon is traditionally made during Halloween, I figured not to many potato lovers as myself would turn it down at this time of year. I swapped the usual cabbage and added kale instead and added in some bacon and green onions instead of the leeks. I think this tradition is one that will stick around in our house.


Colcannon

4 large baking potatoes
3/4 to 1 cup half and half, warmed (depending on how creamy you want your potatoes)
3 tbsp butter
4 strips of bacon, cooked and cut into chunks
2 cups kale
3 green onions, sliced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, boil the potatoes whole for 20 minutes or until soft but not mushy. Drain and let the potatoes sit in the covered pot until cool enough to handle. In a large saute pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the kale and cook until soft. Set aside. Peel the potatoes and cut them into large chunks and place them in a large bowl or the bowl of a mixer. Mix the potatoes until some are creamy but you still have chunks and slowly add in the half and half to get your desired texture. (I like mine pretty chunky, but do as you please). Stir in the cooked bacon chunks, your kale and the sliced green onion then salt and pepper to taste. Top with your remaining 2 tablespoons of butter on top (optional) and serve.