Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I love making pate a choux or puff paste. Not only is making pate a choux a great skill to have in your cooking repertoire, it is fun to make. The process of transforming water, butter, flour and seasonings, which essentially is a very thick bechamel sauce, by adding eggs one at a time to make the paste swell is almost magical. Once the puffs hit the hot oven, they rise into tender orbs that become the base for appetizer or dessert. A pretty good pay off, I think, for the short amount of time invested.

Gougeres, from the Burgundy region of France, are created when grated cheese, be it Gruyere, Swiss or Parmesan, is added to the warm paste. They are the perfect bite with a pre-dinner drink, and  they freeze perfectly. For your spur of the moment guests, don't even defrost them. Just pop them into a hot oven for a few minutes until they are crisp and enjoy.

I use Julia's classic recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume . Perfect.

Try this link to see a gorgeous photographic tutorial on making gougeres.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Cooking

Holiday cooking is in high gear, and it seems that everyone I know is planning, shopping, cutting, dicing, and most of all, baking. All of those mixers  are whirring with flour flying yielding an abundance of sweets to be shared.

My weekend produced some treats that are easy to store and pull out for expected or unexpected guests.
This Wine Bar Nut Mix, a combination of savory and slightly sweet, is delicious before or after dinner.

These dried figs stuffed with a rich ganache and enrobed in dark chocolate make a special treat.

 "Chocolate is the answer.  Who cares what the question is."  Author Unknown

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hot And Cheesy

After what seemed like a long hiatus, T and J returned to our house for dinner on Friday night. Sometimes life just happens, but on Friday everything seemed to fall into place. John walked in the side door, as T and J arrived through the front. John shook the martinis until his hands froze as I patted out the pizza and our friends perched on the stools at the kitchen counter. Ready for pizza and politics as usual.

I had come across a recipe last month that got me thinking. With the publication of Amanda Hesser's, The Essential New York Times Cook Book,  this recipe for Hot Cheese Olives was all over the press. It was extremely similar to one I had made many times in the early years of my marriage, Olive-Cheese Balls, from my 1969 edition of Betty Crocker's Cookbook. There are a few differences in the recipes, so I thought I would try the one passed on to Ms. Hesser from Southerner, Julia Reed. They are a bit more fussy to make than what I normally serve with drinks, but I had the time and gave it a go.

These tasty morsels proved to be perfect with a drink as well as addictive.  If you try this recipe, and I strongly suggest that you do, make the dough in the food processor--fast and easy.  The olives may be wrapped in the dough then parked in the fridge on a baking sheet until you are ready to pop them in the oven. Make sure the olives are very dry before wrapping. And be careful when eating as the olives remain quite hot! I saved half the dough and froze it for use during the holidays. I'll let you know how that works out.

If you love olives as much as I do you are bound to love these Fried Green Olives a staple, I hear, at some Roman bars. Delicious!