Friday, October 23, 2009

Perfect Tea & Scones

I have to admit, I was really impressed with a new tea maker I purchased recently. I just love loose tea and I've tried so many systems over the years, but never found one that was just right for me. They advertised.. 'the perfect cup of tea' and they didn't exagerate one little bit. Teavana's Perfect Tea Maker has made brewing that perfect cup of tea a breeze. Mix up your favorite herbs, or tea leave blends in this handy little unit, pour boiling water in and allow it to steep. Then simply set the unit over your teacup or mug and watch it filter through the bottom. Presto..the perfect cup of tea.

What goes better with a nice hot cup of tea than scones. As I finished up my work in the gardens yesterday I was happy that I had made a batch of my favorites earlier in the day. I can't understand why more folks don't make these delicious morsels. Scones are a breeze to make and you can add any fruits, nuts or favorite chocolates you like to them. I made two batches.. Raspberry & Chocolate bits that went into the freezer and my favorite.. Blueberry & Peach. This recipe makes eight good sized scones. This is a basic recipe, so feel free to experiment with your own fruit selections. White chocolate bits with dried apricots, Apple, cranberry & granola are pretty tempting too. Make some in the morning and see what I mean. You'll be hooked on scones too. Enjoy!

Blueberry Peach Scones

In a large bowl mix:

2 3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup baking powder

Cut into flour mixture until crumbly:

4 1/2 oz butter (by weight)

***Note: If you are adding fruit, nuts, chocolate etc, do so, before adding the wet portion. For this size recipe: Add two cups total and gently incorporate.

1 cup frozen bluebrries
1 cup frozen peach slices, chopped

Add to the dry mix with a fork until incorporated:

1 cup buttermilk

Knead very gently to form a large ball in your bowl. Transfer to a floured surface and pat or lightly roll a 9" circle, 1 1/2 inches high with the dough. Cut the round into eight wedges. Egg wash the tops and sprinkle with sugar. Alternate slices and place on a parchment lined sheetpan. Bake in 375 degree oven until golden brown.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Roasted Butternut & fennel risotto

Do you have a favorite risotto? As many of my readers must know by now, I just adore risotto, and as I make it often wondered if any of you have a favorite risotto dish?

This week I harvested the remaining fennel, shallots and butternut squash from the gardens to hopefully winter over, so for dinner tonite it was roasted butternut risotto for us. But if I had to chose my favorite, I'd have to say wild mushroom is right up there for me. My good friend, Celia recently sent me a new cookbook, Risotto and I'm anxious to try the savory scallop & fennel and saffron-marsala recipes, and the tiramisu risotto recipe has really piqued my interest, along with over one hundred other delicious risotto's found in it. Thank you again so much Celia. You couldn't have chosen a better gift!

Roasted Butternut Risotto
You can try more of my favorite risotto recipes here.

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into cubes
1/2 small fennel bulb,finely sliced
3 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt, white pepper
fresh savory, parsley & sage, minced
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup Pinot Grigio
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the squash and fennel on a baking sheet and toss with a tablesppon of olive oil. Season with sea salt, white pepper & herbs of choice. Roast uncovered for about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil and set aside.

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, then turn off and cover to keep it warm.

Melt butter, and gently saute the garlic and shallots until softened 5 or 6 minutes. Add the rice, coating it well and stir until it turns opaque about 2 minutes. You don't want the rice to brown. Now add the wine and cook gently until it has been absorbed. Add the warming broth, simmering the pot, ladle by ladle,until you've used all the stock and the rice is thick, creamy and tender, about 20 minutes or so. Now add the roasted butternut squash and fennel pieces to the cooked risotto. Remove from heat and stir in grated parmesan cheese and serve. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mussels Provencale

It doesn't take much time or effort to prepare this deliciously affordable dish. I cleaned out the garden this week, peppers, onions, the last of the roma tomatoes.. a few handfuls of parsley along with some fresh thyme. Cooking mussels a snap--all you need to do is scrub them well and remove any of the small beard that may be found on some. Toss them in your pot along with the other ingredients and cook for 5-8 minutes. Serve with lots of crusty bread to scoop up the delicious juices!

2 lbs fresh mussels-- washed, & debearded
2 TBLS olive oil
2 shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
1 small onion, diced
1 sweet pepper, diced
1 cup diced roma tomatoes
2 TBLS unsalted butter
1 handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
2 tsps fresh thyme

In 2 TBLS olive oil saute shallots,and garlic until garlic is lightly browned. Add peppers and cook for just a minute more. Toss in the mussels, wine, water, onion, and tomatoes. Cover pan and bring to a light boil. Lower heat, simmering 3 minutes more or until all the mussels have opened. Discard any that do not open. Stir gently and add unsalted butter and fresh herbs a minute or so before serving. Ladle mussels into shallow bowls with plenty of juice and serve with very crusty bread. Enjoy!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Pepper & Basil Pizza Margarita

Make your own pizza dough with a simple marinara sauce, mozzarella, garden fresh peppers and fresh basil leaves. I finally harvested the remaining 40 peppers growing in my hoop house. So we decided to make some grilled fennel sausage with peppers and onions and a basil dough pizza.

Pizza Dough:

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tsp minced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon salt

Marinara Sauce:


mozzarella cheese
grated pecorino cheese
sliced green peppers
fresh basil leaves
olive oil
sea salt and white pepper

Add 1 tablespoon of yeast to warm water and sugar, stir. Let sit for 7 minutes until it just begins to bubble. Pour into mixing bowl, add olive oil and basil leaves. Blending on medium speed, mix in one cup of flour at a time with salt until it forms into a ball. Dust a cutting board with flour and knead dough for 8 minutes. Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil, transfer dough and cover with Saran wrap and a small towel on top. Let rise in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours.

When dough becomes 2-3 times it's original size, spread onto floured board knead a little and cut into 2 pieces. Form into round disks. Whenever I make pizza dough, I toss one of the rounds into the freezer for a quickie dinner another time. Roll out the dough to 10 inches and place on pizza sheet pan. Drizzle over a bit of olive oil, then add marinara sauce, sliced peppers, fresh whole basil leaves, pecorino cheese, and top with mozzarella cheese. Shake your favorite herb blend -- I use oregano, thyme, savory & basil , a bit of sea salt & white pepper and bake in a 450 degree oven till the top is crispy and the mozzarella cheese is bubbly. Slice and just dig in. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sunday Dessert, Pumpkin Cannoli

Do you know what started with a line of jams on a card table at a New England farmers' market? And that today, it has grown to be a giant in the fancy food market, producing more that 170 types of preserves and condiments, and... it's a shoppe that I frequent often. In our neighboring town of York, Maine you will find the headquarters and processing center of Stonewall Kitchen.

You've probably seen their smartly labeled jars of gourmet chutneys, jams, jellies, salsas, and sauces in specialty stores near you. The company's attractive complex houses the company store, a bustling café and take-out restaurant, a viewing area of the cooking and bottling processes, and stunning gardens. Café tables are set outside and the store is brimming with wares that would make Martha Stewart proud. You may sample all the mustards, salsas, and dressings that you can stand, or have lunch at the café. They now even offer cooking classes with some splendid recipe offerings with local top notch chefs.

I stopped in last week to fill my basket. With the chilly weather finally upon us I was drawn to their delicious Maple Pumpkin Butter. This creamy, flavorful topping is delcious served warm and drizzled over ice cream, muffins or crisp apple pie. I wasn't sure what I would prepare with it just yet, but tossed two jars into my basket. Two other faves of mine are their Hot Pepper Jelly and for everyone that enjoys a Sunday favorite brunch cocktail, some Mimosa Jam. Simply scrumptious!! All in all, a fun shopping day.

So this weekend, I just had that hankering for a roast pork dinner, with roast potatoes, red cabbage and homemade applesauce. With my busy schedule I usually don't have much time to prepare larger meals during the week.. but when it comes to Sundays, it's a must around here. I just love Sunday dinners. Along with the meal itself, I usually will make a dessert of sorts as well. After rifling through my cupboards I spotted the two jars of pumpkin butter I had purchased the week before.

The decision was made.. cannoli's for dessert! I typically prefer custard filled cannoli's, both the chocolate and vanilla custard instead of the traditional ricotta cheese filled cannoli's, but as I had a tub of fresh ricotta in the refrigerator I decided to attempt a pumpkin, ricotta, mascarpone filled cannoli. The result.. a very uniquely flavored, dessert treat, with just a sprinkling of crushed pecans and a dusting of powdered sugar.

I made ten of them and they were so good that I was forced to deliver five over to our neighbors or pay the piper when I jumped on the scale come Monday morning. :)

You may buy pre-made shells in your local bakery or make your own. Here's how I make mine:

Cannoli shells

1 1/2 cups flour
1 TBLS sugar
5 tsp vegetable shortening
1 whole egg, plus yolk of second egg (reserve white of second egg)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sweet marsala or white wine
vegetable oil -for frying

Place all the cannoli ingredients except the flour and reserved egg white in a large mixing bowl and mix well. Slowly add the flour and knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Form dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Divide the dough into quarters and roll out on surface dusted with flour. Roll the dough a little thicker than paper-thin and cut into four inch squares. Lightly oil cannoli tubes. Lightly beat egg white, then brush bottom edge of 1 dough round with egg white. Place a point of a square on the middle of an aluminum cannoli tube and wrap dough around until the ends meet. Dampen the ends of dough with reserved egg white and seal.
Fry the shells in 2 inches of vegetable oil until lightly browned. I fry two at a time. Remove onced browned. Slide the cooked shells off the tubes while hot( if you let them cool down they will stick to the tubes and break apart) and set on paper toweled lined plate to drain and cool. Cool tubes and re-oil them.. Wrap remaining dough squares around tubes and fry in same manner.

Pumpkin Filling

Make filling while dough stands:

1 cup well drained ricotta
1/2 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup organic canned pumpkin puree
4 oz. Stonewall Kitchen Maple Pumpkin Butter
2 oz confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
chopped pecans

Beat all ingredients together until thickened. Scrape filling into a pastry bag and set aside in refrigerator. Just before serving, pipe into your prepared cannoli shells. Sprinkle on the chopped pecans and dust with powdered sugar. Enjoy!