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Posts tagged ‘barefoot contessa’

My Simple Valentine: Heart-Shaped Shortbread Cookies Dipped in Chocolate

Valentine’s Day has always been a favorite holiday of mine, but the days of hand-crafted paper and glitter cards, and (thankfully) the painful awkward days of middle-school choir class and Mrs. Powers’ “Have a Heart” song/activity are long gone. This year I’ll be spending Valentine’s Day evening at the French Culinary Institute, doing production for the school’s restaurant, L’Ecole… and I will be on butchering duty. My bloody valentine will consist of a case of ducks that need to be broken down, and a case of lamb and pork racks that will need to be frenched before service. When that’s done and over with we’ll be moving on to Foie Gras Hotdogs, and Spiced Short-Rib Hot Dogs on freshly baked Brioche Buns, which certainly isn’t everyone’s idea of a traditional treat for the holiday.

I had plenty of frozen Pate Sablee in stock so I decided to make some really simple Shortbread Cookies dipped in Semi-Sweet Chocolate. I thought of many ways to make the cookie a little more special (crystalized ginger, pretzel pieces, almonds, dried cherries…) but although the cookies are not extremely sweet, they are very rich, and after sampling a few I decided the addition of chocolate was enough. This dough is easy to make, and freezes great, or stays in the fridge for over a week. If you don’t have time for arts and crafts, and want a quick homemade treat for friends, coworkers, classmates, (and certain chef instructors), this is a great cookie to try out.

Pate Sablee (Shortbread Dough)

Ingredients:
150 g (5oz) Butter
90 g (3 oz) Confectioner’s Sugar
Pinch of Salt (Fleur de Sel)
1 t good vanilla
2 egg yolks
255 g (9 oz) cake flour
1-2 t water
Granulated sugar (for sprinkling)

1. Soften butter by placing between two layers of plastic wrap and flattening with rolling-pin
2. Combine butter and sugar with fork (or beat with mixer) until creamy
3. Add egg yolks one at a time, until mixed completely
4. Add vanilla and pinch of salt
5. Sift flour and add at once. Make sure mixture is well combined and form into a ball. Flatten into a disc and refrigerate at least 30mins.
6. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
7. Roll out dough to be just under 1 cm thick. The dough will rise a bit in oven. Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutter! Make sure to give enough space between cookies on pan. Sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar evenly over surface.
8. Bake about 15 mins, until the edges of the cookies are light brown.
9. Let cool.
10. In a double boiler, melt 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels. Once melted, add another 1/4 cup. Dip corners of cooled cookies into the chocolate, or drizzle a bit over the cookies with a spoon or plastic spatula.

This is the classic french recipe for Pate Sablee which can also be used as a great base for tarts. I listed this recipe as I had plenty left over from the Tarte Au Citron we’ve been making in class, but Ina Garten also has a delicious and easy shortbread recipe I have used which you can find here.

XoXo!

Dinner at John’s (the Winter Edition)

The days were just starting to get shorter,and the weather colder. I broke out my scarf, my gloves, and that is when it hit me. Maybe it was school, or work, whatever it was, I needed a break from the City. Going out to Shelter Island for the weekend is always proves to be a great escape, especially when you have a dinner party with a great group of friends planned.

I visit the Union Square farmer’s market weekly, and other outdoor markets like the New Amsterdam Market have a great selection of produce and other food items even during the colder months, which is also true for the farm stands on the East End. I didn’t get a chance to go while I was visiting, but the Sag Harbor Farmer’s Market has moved indoors for the winter and runs on Saturdays at 34 Bay St. from 9am – 1pm as well. I took a Jitney in the afternoon and missed the market, but had access to another great local food that is in season… bay scallops! While my family usually purchases scallops from our neighbor who is a commercial fisherman, we went to Commander Cody’s on Shelter Island to pick up a couple of pounds for dinner.

Bay Scallops, Parsley Coulis, Fennel and Orange Slaw

Since I had already promised John I’d make Sweet Potato Gnocci for the meal, I thought the scallops would stand out better on their own as a first course. Scallops, especially fresh bay scallops, have a sweet and delicate flavor that can easily get lost among a starch, or a strong sauce. I like to serve them seared, without any batter or coating. I bring oil up to a med-high temperature in saute pan, and allow the scallops to develop a golden “crust” on both sides, and finish them with some butter, salt and pepper, off the heat. They cook extremely quickly, and it is important not to leave them over the flame for more than a few minutes at most, as they can become very chewy. I served them over a parsley coulis which added just a little zest without concealing the flavor of the scallops. See a quick recipe for the coulis at bottom of post.

Vanessa brought a really beautiful salad featuring some really spicy young arugala her mother grew. Borrowing a recipe from my favorite, Ina Garten, she added roasted butternut squash, roasted pecans, and a warm shallot-apple cider vinagrette. Instead of dried cranberries she tossed in some pomegrante seeds, which were tart, sweet, and a nice seasonal touch.

Sweet Potato Gnocci

The Sweet Potato Gnocci were a little intimidating, but I chose to use a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis that featured ricotta cheese as an ingredient, as I recalled a Mark Bittman article earlier in the month stating the light fluffy texture of gnocci made just with the cheese. The dough was a bit difficult to work with, which made for some interesting looking gnocci– but they tasted really great, and that’s all that really matters, right?

Instead of Giada’s sweet sauce, I did a brown butter sauce with a little fried sage, pancetta, and because it was a dinner party at John’s, we had to incorporate some gently sautéed oyster mushrooms. Connor did a wonderful job of finishing the plate with just a little freshly grated parmesan cheese, a component which really tied all the flavors together. While extremely rich, this dish was excellent. The gnocci had a nice soft texture, and the sauce had really wonderful warming flavors that were so enjoyed on a cold winter night (the red wines John picked for the evening didn’t hurt either).

While we couldn’t sit out back on the porch and drink lovely pink gin cocktails, and look out at the water front– we stayed cozy inside and were full, happy, and warm. Winter is a great time for food, and so many ingredients are still in season to create hearty, and memorable meals.

Parsley Coulis:

Ingredients:
2 T oil
2 shallots (minced)
1 oz mushrooms (chopped finely)
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch parsley, stemmed
S & P
Lemon Juice

-Bring water to a boil in small sauce pot, add parsley for a few seconds, drain, and quickly place in ice bath. Drain on paper towels, squeeze out all excess moisture. (This step helps parsley retain vibrant color for finished sauce).

-Sweat the shallots and mushrooms in a pan with 2 T oil, without achieving color. Add 1/2 cup stock, cook until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat.

-Pour contents in food processor or blender, puree about a minute. Add parsley. Pour contents back into pan, season to taste. Keep warm for service.

Lemon-Lavender Yogurt Cake

Lemon-Lavender Yogurt Cake with Fresh Lavender from Lavender by the Bay

I updated this recipe from Ina Garten of Barefoot Contessa, with some local and organic ingredients including the fresh lavender I purchased during my recent visit to Lavender By the Bay. The cake was amazing. Really moist, extremely tart, and just a hint of the sweet and herbal taste of lavender. Great for a spring or summer treat.

Lemon-Lavender Yogurt Cake

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain goat’s milk yogurt from Red Hill Farms
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs (cage free, or farm fresh, I used some from neighbor’s chickens)
2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated (zest of 2 lemons)
1/2 cup fresh lavender
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

For the glaze

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, lavender, and salt into 1 bowl.

In another large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla.

Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set the lemon syrup aside.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar syrup over the cake and allow it to soak inches Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.