January 19, 2009

Mini Manchego and Onion Marmalade Tartlets

One of my favorite items which you will always find in my freezer are the mini phyllo pastry shells. They are inexpensive, will keep a long time, and you can use them for savory bites, or sweet desserts, and the possibilities are endless as far as what to fill them with. I could go on forever here, but for the purposes of this post, I will keep it to this sweet onion marmalade/chutney which I made to compliment a pork tenderloin glazed with dijon. I had some leftover and thought it would be nice with a little cheese in these cute little shells.
The onion marmalade is very quick and easy to prepare, but if you want to use a store bought chutney, there are lots of great flavors that would be just as good.
Try these the next time you need a quick appetizer and enjoy!

Wine Pairing: try a Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre with this.

Onion Marmalade
Makes about 2/3 cups

1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
salt and coarse ground pepper to taste

Heat butter in medium heavy saucepan. Add onion, a pinch of salt and pepper and cook 5 minutes stirring often. Sprinkle with sugar and continue cooking until onions are soft and browned. About 8-10 minutes.
Add vinegar and wine and simmer until almost all the liquids have evaporated and onion mixture is syrupy. About 5 minutes. Bring to room temperature before using.

This can be made 2 days ahead of time. Just keep covered and refrigerated.

Mini Manchego and Onion Marmalade Tartlets
15 Tartlets

1 (1.9 ounce) package frozen mini phyllo pastry shells
1 cup finely grated manchego or mahon cheese (about 2 ounces)
3-4 tablespoons onion marmalade
fresh thyme or marjoram leaves for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange phyllo shells on baking sheet. Add 1/2 teaspoonful of marmalade/chutney into shells. Top each with grated cheese.
Bake for about 6-8 minutes or until bubbly. Garnish with a few small thyme or marjoram leaves. Can be served hot or at room temp.

January 18, 2009

Albondigas Soup

Ok, so if you like Mexican food, meatballs and soup, you will love this simple Mexican meatball soup that is hearty and healthy. When I lived in Tucson a few years back, I found this little family owned mexican restaurant which served the best ever Albondigas soup, and I just can't seem to find another that even compares. So I tried to recreate it the best I could. The authentic soup calls for ground beef and white rice for the meatballs, but to lighten it up, I use ground turkey, and I like the addition of brown rice because of the nutty taste it gives to the meatballs. All you need is some crusty bread, and a nice bottle of wine.
I know you will love this one!

Wine Pairing: A Rioja would be do quite nicely here.

Albondigas Soup
serves 6-8

1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1 egg
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (would also be good with mint)
3 green onion chopped
1 tbsp adobo seasoning
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs or Panko crumbs
1/4 cup of ice water
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove minced
1 carrot diced
1 medium potato diced
2 cans of low sodium beef broth
1 can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained and cut up

In medium bowl, combine first ten ingredients, and form into small meatballs. Set aside. In large dutch oven or soup pot, over medium heat, add olive oil, garlic, onion, carrot and potato. Cook for about 3 minutes to soften a bit. Add beef broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add meatballs, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve and enjoy!

January 15, 2009

Chicken Sausage in Puff Pastry

Ok, so who doesn't like Pigs in Blankets. Basically, a hot dog or vienna sausage wrapped in the pastry of your choice. In England, pigs in blankets refers to small sausages wrapped in bacon, and are considered an essential part of the Christmas meal. It is believed that the Victorians introduced them in the Christmas lunch to maintain the religious aspect to the meal and likening them to Baby Jesus wrapped in a swaddling cloth.
This recipe is a take on a Sausage Roll that I tasted in England and a must have everytime I go back. Made and sold in the local bakery, it's simply a pork sausage (banger) wrapped in puff pastry. Heaven in a few bites!
I've added a few extras to this to make it more of a meal instead of a snack or light bite.

Wine Pairing: enjoy with a Sauvignon Blanc or Gewurztraminer.

Chicken Sausage in Puff Pastry
serves 4

4 Italian chicken sausages (this will be good with whatever savory sausage you like)
3 leeks (white part only) cleaned and diced
1 large shallot diced
1 garlic clove minced
1 tbsp butter
pinch of salt
dash of pepper
1 puff pastry (thawed in refrigerator)
2 tbsp of dijon mustard
1 cup asiago cheese
1 egg for egg wash or use a little cream

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a saute pan over medium heat, add butter, leeks, shallots, garlic, salt and pepper. Saute until soft, about 3 minutes. Take off heat and set aside to cool slightly. In the meantime, roll out your puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface. You want to roll it out enough so that when you quarter the pastry, you have four 5 inch squares. Spread each square with a thin layer of dijon mustard. On top of mustard, add your leek and shallot mixture on one side of pastry. Place your sausage on top of leek and shallot mixture and sprinkle your asiago cheese on top. Close pastry by taking one half and folding it over your filling. Crimp all 3 sides with a fork. Place them on a baking sheet with a silpat liner or sprayed with cooking spray. Brush all with a thin layer of egg wash or cream.
Place in oven and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes until pastry is lightly browned.
Take out and enjoy with a simple salad of mixed greens.

January 13, 2009

Pairings with Coffee and Dessert

We all know about the wonderful world of pairing food and wine, but did you know that you could to the same with coffee and dessert? Some great taste sensations will come from brewing coffee at home and pairing it with food. Always select whole bean coffee and grind it at home. Use a coffee press for a true taste and elegant presentation. Using geography as a guide, you can create your own pairings for your favorite desserts.
  • Asian/Pacific coffees are full-bodied, herbal and earthy, and pair well with cheese as well as rich, buttery dishes that feature toffee and caramel. Spicy flavors like cinnamon also go well with these coffees (sumatra and Komodo Dragon Blend).
  • Latin American coffees offer rich flavors of nuts and cocoa. Coffees from this region (Breakfast Blend, House Blend, and Guatemala Antigua) pair well with desserts that feature nuts and caramel, as well as apples, blueberries and lemons.

  • African/Arabian coffees feature floral aromas and flavors of berries and citrus. Coffees from this region (Kenya, Ethiopia Sidamo) pair well with dried fruits, lemons and grapefruit, plus dishes featuring savory herbs and spices.

Cheers to your next cup of brew and finding your favorite pairing!

Visit Starbucks for wide range of coffee flavors.

January 11, 2009

Braised Short Ribs

I came across short ribs at the grocery store the other day which looked great, well marbled but not too much fat. I haven't made them in a while and thought, what better way than to slow braise them for that fall off the bone decadence. Nothing beats the taste of something that has been cooking all day, and the aromas wafting throughout your home....pretty amazing. This dish only begs for two things, a nice bottle of red and some great crusty bread.
The ragu that this dish creates is outstanding. Throw it into some pasta, make a quick salad, and you have dinner the next night.
Wine Pairings: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or a Super-Tuscan would be great with this.

Braised Short Ribs
Serves 4

4 3-inch long beef short ribs
kosher salt and pepper to season ribs
1 tbsp light olive oil
1 cup dry red wine (always cook with something you would drink)
1 can low sodium beef broth
1 can diced tomatoes w/ juice
1 chopped onion
6 garlic cloves peeled and cut in half
1 tbsp dried rosemary
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. On stove, add olive oil to dutch oven and heat over high heat, Salt, pepper and lightly flour short ribs on all sides. Sear ribs on all sides to get a deep brown color, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove ribs from pan and set aside. With about 1 tbsp of oil left in dutch oven, add onion, garlic and rosemary and saute till soft, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, wine and broth and bring to a boil. Add ribs back into dutch oven w/ bay leaves. Cover and put into pre-heated oven for about 3 hours. The ragu will be thick and reduced.
This would be great with mashed potatoes or polenta.

January 10, 2009

Mexican Chicken with Chile Chocolate Sauce

It must be about 15 years ago now that I tried a savory dish for the first time with chocolate as one of the ingredients. It was the tastiest chili con carne I had ever had. Expecting a sweet taste, I was a bit skeptical as I took that first bite. I was actually pleasantly surprised. The chocolate didn't add any sweetness at all, in fact in only deepened and enhanced all the flavors in the chili to make it more complex. From then on, my thoughts on chocolate changed from being that of only a sweet to an all around flavoring. Now a little bit of chocolate is always added to my chili recipes to enhance and deepen the flavors.

This is a simplified and delicious version of Chicken with Mole Negro which is a spicy sauce made with different types of chilies, spices and chocolate.
Give this a try. I think that you will really enjoy it, and this is a great way to wow your guests.

Wine Pairing: The flavors in this dish are very complex, so you want a light refreshing wine that will not over power. Try either a Sauvignon Blanc or Pouilly-Fume.

Mexican Chicken with Chile Chocolate Sauce
Serves 4

2 tbsp chili oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 skinless chicken breasts or
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 onion chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 small red chile, seeded and chopped (optional depending if you like a bit of heat)
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp brown sugar
1 3/4 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into small pieces (I like Scharffen Berger)
1/2 cup red wine
juice of 1/2 orange
Heat oil in a flameproof casserole. Add the garlic and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes on first side, turn over and cook for another 2 minutes. Take chicken out of pan and cut into bite-size chunks and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add the onion, red bell pepper, tomatoes, chile, and unsweetened cocoa to the pan. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Then add the chicken broth, raisins, pine nuts, allspice and sugar and cook for 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the casserole. Add the chocolate and stir until melted, then add the red wine and orange juice. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
Transfer to the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and serve with freshly cooked rice.

January 8, 2009

Rosa Regale Sparkling Wine

One of my faves is this sweet sparkling wine from Italy. The effervescence is much softer than that of champagne, and has a sweet palate of strawberry, raspberry and black cherry. It's slightly frothy with a sweet, smooth finish. In my opinion a dessert in itself, but will pair well with fruity desserts and marries especially well with dark or bittersweet chocolate. You will want a second glass.

January 6, 2009

Angel Food Cake

Ok, so here we are at the beginning of the new year, and as it is usually a time where we reevaluate our goals, priorities and plan our year ahead, I thought a yummy good for you treat would be in order to start the new year off. I for one seem to start every year with thoughts of fitness and eating healthy to improve my life and well-being, as I'm sure a lot of you do. What better way than to start with a dessert first.
This satisfying Angel Food cake is firstly very tasty, but quick and easy as well.
Wine Pairings: Riesling and Gewurztraminer would pair well with this.

Angel Food Cake with Strawberries in a Balsamic reduction drizzle

12 egg whites
1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup of cake flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon honey
Fresh strawberries

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Combine egg whites, salt and cream of tartar in bowl of stand alone mixer. Beat on medium speed until frothy. Add vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest. Mix on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until mixture forms stiff peaks. Now using a spatula, sprinkle flour into the egg white mixture, carefully folding until all is incorporated. Spoon batter into an ungreased 10-inch nonstick angel food cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Top will be brown and toothpick should come out clean. Invert pan for about 1 hour to cool completely.

In saucepan, add balsamic vinegar and honey and reduce over medium heat. Mixture will be thick and syrupy, and will coat the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool.

Using spatula, loosen cake from sides and middle. Push bottom of cake pan out through the top and release bottom of cake from pan. Place on serving platter. Cut into slices, top with sliced strawberries, and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Enjoy!

January 1, 2009

Hot and Sour Soup

There is nothing like starting the new year than with a big bowl of steaming Hot and Sour Soup. This will definetely keep my husband smiling and the warmth in on such a cold first day to 2009.
Firstly, after experimenting with many recipes for this yummy soup, I finally finagled a soup that tastes very similar to what you may get at a Chinese restaurant. You will find this quick, easy and very tasty. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Riesling would pair quite nicely.
If you want a sparkling wine, try Italian Prosecco, it has a lemon-lime flair and goes great with asian dishes.

Hot and Sour Soup
Serves 4-6 appetizer servings

1 package (1 oz.) dried black Chinese mushrooms
or 1 can straw mushrooms
4 ounces firm tofu, drained and cubed (optional)
5 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon hot chili oil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup cooked shredded pork
1 cup drained canned bamboo shoots cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 egg white, slightly beaten
3 scallions thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Place dried mushrooms in bowl, cover with warm water and soak for 20 minutes to soften. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Discard stems and slice caps.
Combine broth, vinegar, soy sauce, chili oil and pepper in medium pot. Bring to boil or high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes.
Stir in mushrooms, tofu, pork and bamboo shoots and heat to boiling.

Blend water into cornstarch in small bowl until smooth. Stir this into soup. Cook and stir for 4 minutes or until soup is thickened and boiling.
Remove from heat. Stirring in one direction, slowly pour egg white in a thin stream into soup. Stir in onions and sesame oil.