"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Douglas Fir Sparkletini

I usually try recipes before I post them on my blog, but I wasn't sure if I'd get the chance to try this one this week - and I wanted to post it before New Years Eve.  It looks great and would be wonderful for any Christmas or New Years celebrations.  If you try it, let me know how it is!
Photo from Foodista

Douglas Fir Sparkletini
Recipe from Foodista.com
1 1/2 ounces Douglas Fir–Infused Gin (recipe follows)
3/4 ounce white cranberry juice
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce simple syrup
Splash of brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine
1 5- to 6-inch sprig fresh-picked Douglas fir branch, rinsed

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Measure in the infused gin, cranberry and lemon juices, and simple syrup. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a martini glass and top with a splash of Champagne. Garnish with a fir sprig and float a cranberry in the drink.
Douglas Fir–Infused Gin (Makes enough for about 16 drinks) Put the fir branch into the gin bottle, cap, and let sit 24 hours. (Do not let it infuse for more than 24 hours.) Remove the branch and discard. The infused gin can be stored at room temperature for up to one year.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction - from Jeff

Jeff made a wonderful balsamic vinegar reduction last year for a Christmas party, and I thought it would make a great last-minute Christmas recipe since it only requires a few ingredients.  I've always loved balsamic vinegar, but I'm not sure that I'd had a reduction before.  The consistency is  more like a syrup.  He used it as a topping for slices of brie - it was amazing! 

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
1 bottle of balsamic vinegar (the better the vinegar, the better the reduction)
Powdered sugar to taste

Heat the vinegar in a sauce pan on high.  As soon as it starts to boil, turn down the heat to medium.  Stir and watch closely as the vinegar cooks (some recipes say to whisk the entire time it cooks).  It should cook down to 1/3 of its original size and become much thicker.  Be careful that you don't burn the vinegar on the bottom of the pan!  Once it gets to the right size/consistency, add a little powdered sugar to taste.  Jeff says that you may want to stop cooking it just before you think it's actually thick enough as it will continue to firm as it cools (if it firms too much, reheat it for a minute and add a small bit of water).

The reduction can be served on fruit, caprese salads (tomato/mozzarella/basil), or on cheeses.  If served with cheese, it would be easiest to serve the reduction in something that pours easily (think creamer or gravy boat) next to your block of brie or other cheese.  If you prepour the reduction, it may get too sticky.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

French Onion Soup

Several years ago my mom gave me the Williams-Sonoma French cookbook.  The front cover has an amazing picture of French Onion Soup.  I have been a HUGE fan of French Onion Soup for as long as I can remember!  If it's on the menu, I'm probably going to order it!  Since I've been on Christmas break this week, I decided to finally try making the soup recipe from the cookbook.  I am so pleased with how it turned out!  I will definitely be making this again.  The dark broth and rich texture make this is a perfect soup to serve at fancy Christmas brunch or dinner. 

Two-Onion Soup Gratinee
(Serves 8)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 large red onions, thinly sliced
4 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. sugar
7 cups (56 fl oz) beef stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dry white wine
12 slices baguette, each 1/4 inch thick
1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup (3oz) shredded Gruyere cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a large, nonaluminum Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the red and yellow onions and saute until wilted, about 15 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the onions are richly colored and caramelized, 30-45 minutes longer.  (If the onions start to brown too quickly toward the beginning of the caramelizing process, you may need to reduce the heat slightly.) 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the stock, garlic, bay leaf, and wine to the pan.  Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, toast the baguette slices: arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden, watching carefully to prevent burning, 5-7 minutes.

Add the thyme to the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Discard the bay leaf.

To serve, preheat the broiler.  Ladle the soup into individual ovenproof soup bowls.  Place 2 or 3 baguette slices on top of each serving and sprinkle evenly with the cheese.  Place the soup bowls on a baking sheet and slide under the broiler about 4 inches from the heat source.  Broil until the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned, 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle a little parsley over each soup bowl and serve at once.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Guacamole Bruschetta

I know this may not be a traditional Christmas recipe, but the green and red can make it work!  This is one of my new favorite recipes, and I think it's perfect for any time of the year.  I made this a few weeks ago for a party.  The main problem I had was finding good tomatoes this time of year.  I really couldn't find any that looked great, so I substituted the fresh tomatoes with sundried tomatoes instead.  They still turned out great!

Photo from justataste.com

Guacamole Bruschetta

Yield: 12-15 servings
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 6 min

½ loaf French bread
1 clove garlic
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, medium chopped
2 avocados, medium chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
Slice the French bread on the diagonal into ½" rounds and place on a baking sheet.
Toast the sliced bread in the oven for 3 minutes, then flip each piece over and toast an additional 3 minutes.
Remove the toasted bread from the oven and immediately rub with the clove of garlic (it works best to first cut a small tip off the garlic clove so that the oils will seep out).
Brush the tops of the garlic-rubbed toasts with olive oil and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the chopped tomatoes, avocado, onion, cilantro, lime juice, salt and pepper. Mix together gently making sure the avocado is well coated in the lime juice.
Spoon a portion of the mixture onto each of the garlic toasts and serve.

From: Justataste.com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sun-dried Tomato and Spinach Torta

This is a recipe from my church's annual Christmas Countdown event.  This year's food was just as good as always!  I really liked this appetizer, and the colors make it perfect for Christmas.

Sun-dried Tomato and Spinach Torta
(from Southern Lady Magazine)
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 (3-ounce) jar prepared pesto
Garnish: chopped sun-dried tomatoes

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, feta cheese, and garlic powder. Beat
at medium speed with an electric mixer until well combined. Divide cream cheese mixture in half.
Combine one-half cheese mixture and spinach; set aside. combine other half with sun-dried tomatoes.
Line an 8 inch cake pan with plastic wrap. Spread spinach mixture in bottom of pan. Top with sun-dried
tomato mixture; refrigerate for 1 hour.
Invert onto serving dish and remove from pan. Carefully remove plastic wrap. Cover sides of torta with
pine nuts. Spread pesto on top of torta. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with sundried
tomatoes. Serve with crackers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom & Gruyere Tartlets

I made this amazing appetizer for a party a few weeks ago.  These tartlets were a big hit!  They take a little bit of time but aren't too difficult to make.  The flavor is so great - I wish I had some right now!

Photo from browneyedbaker.com

Caramelized Onion, Mushroom & Gruyere Tartlets
Yield: 16 3-inch tartlets
Prep Time: 1 hour
Bake Time: 20 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
16 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup white wine (can substitute chicken or vegetable broth)
2 sheets puff pastry (thawed according to directions on package)
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (can substitute any variety of Swiss cheese)
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten together (for the egg wash)
Handful of parsley, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft and all of the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and the thyme and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up all of the browned bits, and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
6. Unfold the thawed sheets of puff pastry and cut out circles from the dough, placing them evenly spaced on the baking sheets. Using a very sharp knife, make four small scores around the perimeter of the dough, about ¼ to ½-inch from the edge.
7. Top the rounds of puff pastry with a small spoonful of the onion and mushroom mixture, trying to keep the filling within the score marks. Top with the shredded Gruyere cheese. Brush the edges of the dough rounds with the egg wash.
8. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 15 to 25 minutes. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley.

From: Brown Eyed Baker

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baked Brie Bites

Photo from: Plain Chicken
I finally had some time to try some new recipes recently!  This is one of my favorites - not only is it really tasty, but it's also REALLY easy!!  I found it on pinterest, and it was originally posted on Plain Chicken.  It's easy to throw together right before you have people over because it doesn't take much prep work.  This is a great way to serve cheese because you don't need a knife or crackers.  And, since it's sweet, you could definitely serve it as a mini-dessert!

Baked Brie Bites (from Plain Chicken)
mini phyllo tarts (from the freezer section)
Ile de France brie, cubed
brown sugar
chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.
Place a cube of brie in each phyllo tart. Sprinkle each tart with approximately 1/2 tsp brown sugar. Top with approximately 1/2 tsp chopped pecans and a dollop of honey. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until brie is melted. (use more or less of each ingredient according to your preference)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pomegranate Hummus - from Gretchen

Photo from: Ask in Your Face
 Like the last two years, I'd like to devote all of the posts in December to recipes that are particularly great during the Christmas season.  Gretchen was gracious enough to share this recipe from her husband's aunt.  It's a festive way of serving hummus.  You can find many hummus recipes on the internet or buy it from your local store.  Gretchen mixes her hummus with a can of chick peas and cumin.  Once it's mixed, she tops it with the arils of one fresh pomegranate.  Sometimes, you can find the arils at the grocery store.  But, if not, you can pick them out of a pomegranate.  This video gives great instruction on how to easily get the arils out of a pomegranate.  This dish makes a beautiful presentation for holiday parties.  Gretchen serves her hummus with pita chips from a local Greek restaurant, but these can be purchased at the grocery store as well.

*Christmas Recipes from 2010 or 2009.
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