Blood Orange Sparkling Wine Cocktail

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It’s our anniversary and we’ve been celebrating all weekend long. There’s a lot to toast to and even more to celebrate. These are happy times deserving of a special cocktail. Since it’s citrus season and blood oranges are abundant, why not? Gin is our spirit of choice and we had a smooth, subtle aromatic one on hand that paired well with the blood orange juice. Topped off with a sweeter sparkling wine, this cocktail it was fit for a celebration. Cheers!

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Blood Orange Sparkling Wine Cocktail

Yield: 2 servings

2 oz fresh squeezed blood orange juice

1 oz gin

1 oz simple syrup (1:1 ratio)

sparkling wine

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, except sparkling wine. Cover and shake until cold. Pour into two champagne coupes or other drinking vessel. Top with sparkling wine.

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Quinoa and Baby Kale Salad with Roasted Garlic Lime Dressing

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Since it’s been so warm lately, I wanted salad and a tangy vinaigrette. But, there are rules. This salad would have to be portable enough to take to lunch, not too fussy to assemble, and not get soggy. Kale is a good option since it’s hearty enough to be dressed ahead of time without turning into a wilted mess by lunchtime. Quinoa gives some heft, the roasted carrots lend a subtle sweetness, and the radish is nicely crisp. Toss with the roasted garlic lime vinaigrette and you’ve got a healthy lunch. It’s even better with some crusty bread slathered in salted butter and a glass of crisp white wine.

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If you’ve got some roasted vegetables leftover from last night’s dinner, this is the salad for you. Half of the work is done. I happened to have roasted carrots on hand so into the salad they went.  Almost any roasted vegetable could be substituted or added to this versatile salad.

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Quinoa and Baby Kale Salad with Roasted Garlic Lime Vinaigrette

Yield: 2 servings

1 cup cooked quinoa*

6 carrots, roasted

6 radishes, sliced thin or if very small, cut in half

Baby kale, 3 handfuls

4 tablespoons roasted garlic lime vinaigrette

Roasted Garlic Lime Vinaigrette:

6-8 cloves roasted garlic

Juice of 1 lime plus zest

1 cup good quality olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except lime zest in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a jar or container and add the zest.

Assemble the Salad:

In a large mixing bowl, add the quinoa, kale, and vinaigrette. Toss to combine, then add the carrots and radish, toss lightly. Portion between two salad bowls. Enjoy!

*cook quinoa according to directions on the package. I use a rice cooker and a ratio of 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water. Make sure to rinse the quinoa in cold water to get rid of bitterness before cooking. To the quinoa and water, I also add a dash of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt to ensure the quinoa is easily fluffed and seasoned.

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Hot Chocolate Cakes

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I would consider myself to be chocolate’s #1 fan. As in stalker-like. I’m dedicated and rarely stray from chocolate related desserts. It’s a fact that I will always order the chocolate tart, cake, ice cream, bread, cookies, chocolate whatever when dining out. It would only be fitting that I would spend my days pondering ways to remake the same satisfyting dessert that I love, the molted chocolate cake. Here, I’ve incporporated ancho chile powder into the batter which gives a hint of heat and when combined with espresso powder, it really rounds out the flavor of the entire cake.

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Hot Chocolate Cakes adapted form Martha Stewart Living:

yield: 6 individual servings

4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature + additional for coating muffin tins

1/3 cup sugar + additional for dusting buttered tins

8 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup all- purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons instant espresso powder

1 ½ teaspoons ancho chili powder

¼ teaspoon salt

3 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Butter and sugar a standard 6 cup muffin tin and set aside. Melt chocolate over a bain marie (double boiler) or in the microwave.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, espresso powder and ancho chili powder. Mix with a whisk. Using a mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and mix until completely incorporated. Add flour mixture and beat until combined. Add chocolate and vanilla extract and mix until combined. Spoon into prepared muffin tins, filling almost to the top.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cakes are just firm enough not to jiggle when tin is shaken. Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

To serve, spoon ganache over each cake and enjoy immediately.

 

Ganache:

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine

5 oz heavy cream

In a small pot, bring the cream to right before a boil. Pour over chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Gently stir with a rubber spatula until all of the chocolate is melted. Set ganache aside to cool and thicken.

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Martinez Cocktail

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With renewed interest in quality cocktails and small batch liquors there is no shortage of trendy bars around town. Classic cocktails have stood the test of time for a reason and we always find ourselves coming back to them. However, as much fun as it is to go out once in a while, when we want a no frills serious drink made in the classic style, we make it at home. The Martinez is the older, more mature cousin of the martini made with sweet vermouth. This drink is heavier on vermouth than gin, thus a bit sweeter but nevertheless well rounded with a slight bitter finish.

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 Martinez Cocktail:

yield: 1 serving

2 oz Carpano Antica

1 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin

splash Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

dash orange bitters (we used homemade orange lavendar)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, add 2 handfuls ice. Stir gently until mixture is chilled and strain into a glass. Cheers!

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Caramel Cream Puffs

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What does one take to a dinner party when asked to make a dessert? Well, many things come to mind such as a fudge cake, macarons, kouign amann, sopaipillas, etc… Really, the options are endless; unless you get the request the night before. And, to put the squeeze on, you’re completely swamped with miscellaneous to-do the following day with no time to go to the market. So, the possibilities here have become limited to say the least. I scoured the pantry for something I could make with what I had on hand. Luckily, I got help with a market run for some cream and immediately got to work. Cream puffs to the rescue! Big relief and as it turned out, a crowd pleaser. Crisis averted.

These gems are made extra special with the addition of miniature chocolate chips and pearl sugar on the outside for a nice crunch. Inside, it’s all about the rich and fluffy caramel cream filling.

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Choux Pastry:

from Lenotre

yield: approximately 5 dozen

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp sugar

1 cup + scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

5 eggs

Bring water, milk, and salt to a boil. Remove from the heat and mix in the flour. Return to the heat for 1 minute, stirring with a spatula until the liquid evaporates. Pour the batter into a mixing bowl fitted with the whip attachment and incorporate 2 eggs. Add 2 more eggs and whip until combined. Add the last egg and stop beating as soon as the mixture becomes homogenous.

Place choux batter into a pastry bag with a plain round tip. Pipe 1- 1/2″ mounds onto a parchment lined sheetpan. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until golden and puffed. Let cool on a wire rack.

Caramel Sauce:

*From My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup water

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

1/2 cup heavy cream

Spread the sugar in a large skillet or wide saucepan and pour the water over it. Heat the sugar over medium heat, swirling the pan very gently, just enough to moisten the sugar with the water.

Once the sugar is moistened and starting to cook, swirl the pan only if there are dry spots of sugar that aren’t melting. Continue to cook the sugar until it begins to darken. Watching carefully, gently swirl the pan, only if necessary, so it cooks evenly. (If the sugar begins to crystallize, continue cooking, stirring only if you see very dark burnt spots appearing, and the crystals should eventually smooth out).

When the caramel is a deep amber color and begins to smoke, remove the pan from the heat and drop in the cubes of butter. Stir with a whisk until butter is completely melted, the gradually whisk in the cream and stir until smooth. If the sauce seizes up, gently warm it over low heat and it will begin to smooth out. Transfer to a heat proof container and let cool to room temperature.

Caramel Cream Filling:

16 oz heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1 cup caramel sauce, room temperature

Whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar until medium stiff. The cream should hold its shape but not be too stiff and look like butter. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the caramel sauce into the whipped cream until combined. Fill a pastry bag with the cream, set aside while you prepare the choux for filling.

Using a pastry tip, poke a hole in the bottom of the choux pastry and fill with caramel cream. You’ll know the cavity is full when the choux becomes heavy.

*It is best to prepare the cream puffs 1 hour prior to consuming to allow the flavors to permeate and slightly soften the choux. Keeping them uncovered in a cool room until ready to enjoy will yield the best results.

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Smashed Potatoes with Spicy Rocoto Cream Sauce

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If you were to open my refrigerator and poke around on any day, there are a few staples that can always be found. Today, two weeks from now, next month, etc… potatoes have a permanent place in the bottom drawer. I especially love the miniature variety which can easily be turned into delicious bites and festive party snacks.

I used rocoto (South American chile pepper) paste here to make the spicy cream sauce which went especially well with these smashed potatoes. This sauce gets into the crevices of the crunchy potato skins and practically melts into the tender parts.

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Roasted Potatoes with Spicy Rocoto Sauce:

Yield: 12- 14 individual potatoes

1 bag small potatoes (or a dozen miniature potatoes)

3 tablespoons olive oil

sea salt to taste

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sliced chives

Preheat oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Scrub potatoes clean, place in a medium size pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes ot until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside.

Line a sheet pan with foil and spread the potatoes out. Using a drinking glass or vessel with a flat bottom, gently flatten each potato. Brush the tops of the potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes until golden brown and skins begin to crisp.

Rocoto Cream Sauce:

1/2 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, rough chopped

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

5 oz queso fresco

4 tablespoons rocoto paste

2 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

2 water crackers (saltines also work)

Heat one teaspoon grapeseed oil in a small skillet and add onion, garlic, and salt. Cook on medium-low heat, until onions become soft and translucent, do not brown. Set aside.

In a blender, combine onion mixture with all other ingredients and puree until smooth. Sauce will be on the thick side (ketchup consistency), it should not be runny. If sauce is too loose, add another cracker and blend until smooth. Transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. If the sauce is made the night before, bring to room temperature before using.

To assemble, place potatoes on a platter and top with a generous spoonful of rocoto cream sauce. Garnish with chives and enjoy immediately.

*Make the rocoto sauce ahead of time and assemble as soon as the potatoes are roasted.

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Savory Morning Buns: White Cheddar and Green Olives

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Every morning has the potential to be a good one when you have a handful of morning buns. Last time, I made a full on sweet version with cinnamon, here. This time, I was craving something savory, slightly crusty on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside. And, it had to be bursting with flavor. After some trials, we were able to achieve the texture I was looking for and the tang of white cheddar combined with fresh thyme and salty green olives sealed the deal. Indeed, this was a good morning.

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Savory Morning Buns: White Cheddar and Green Olive

Yield: 6 buns

½ cup warm milk

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon dry active yeast

1 cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup + 2 tablespoons bread flour

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter, melted

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Filling:

6 oz white cheddar cheese, shredded

3 oz green olives, halved

3 sprigs fresh thyme, cleaned and picked

In a small mixing bowl, combine the warm milk, yeast, and 2 tablespoons bread flour. Mix well and set aside for 30 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, remaining bread flour, egg, melted butter, and salt. Dough will be shaggy and a little dry at this point. When the 30 minutes are up, add the milk mixture and stir until dough becomes smooth. If the dough is too wet, add 1-2 tablespoons additional bread flour to achieve a semi-tacky texture. It should be very moist but not sticky.

Place back into the large mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 1 hour. It is ready when the dough looks spongy has almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 6-cup muffin tin.

Place dough onto a floured work surface and gently roll out to a 12” x 7” rectangle with the long side parallel to you. Place layer the filling beginning with the cheese, then olives, and sprinkle with thyme.

Beginning with the long side closest to you, gently roll the dough by tucking the edge inward and finish with the seam on the bottom.

Slice the roll into 2” thick sections and place one coil, cut side up into each cup of the greased muffin tin.

Brush with melted butter and sprinkle flaked sea salt on top.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy immediately.

*To make ahead, prepare everything up to placing cut coils into the muffin tin. Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until 1 hour before baking. Once they are at room temperature, brush with melted butter, sprinkle salt, and bake.

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Chochoyotes and Black Bean Soup

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Cold weather calls for savory, hearty, warming soup. Today, we are taking the time to make chochoyotes-  tiny masa dough balls with an indentaion in the center to catch the garnishes for an extra tasty bite. And, since it is cold and rainy, we are making a thick and substantial soup complete with fresh garnishes to brighten it all up. Let’s get cooking.

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Chochoyotes and Black Bean Soup

Serves 2 as a main course

Make the Black Beans:

1 ½ pounds black beans, washed and picked though

½ onion

2 stalks celery

2 cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

1 handful of cilantro, stems, leaves and all

2 teaspoons sea salt

Water

Place all ingredients except water in a slow cooker. Add enough cold water to cover the beans by at least double. More water is better than less. Set your slow cooker for 6 hours. When the beans are done, remove the onion, celery, garlic, cilantro and bay leaf and discard. *This can be done 1-2 days in advance.

Make the Black Bean Soup:

3 cups cooked black beans

1 cup cooking liquid from beans

Puree 2 cups whole beans and liquid together in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Place in a small pot with the reserved 1 cup whole beans and heat gently to warm.

Make the Chochoyotes:

2 cups maseca

1 tablespoon lard

1 cup water

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ cup all purpose flour

Combine lard and all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Slowly add the water and mix by hand or with a firm spatula just until all ingredients are combined into a cohesive dough. Do not over work the dough.

Ball the dough into approximately 1 ½“ portions and roll between your palms to get them round. Press a hole in the middle and set aside. Continue until all dough is formed.

Boil in lightly salted water for 7-8 minutes until cooked through. Set aside.

Garnishes:

Queso fresco

Chopped cilantro

Sour cream

Lime wedges

Assemble the Soup:

Ladle soup into warmed bowls and place chochoyotes into soup. Garnish and serve immediately.

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Crêpes with Salted Butter Caramel Sauce

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Crêpes are somewhat of a special occasion treat for us. While simple and easy to make, I just don’t find myself mixing up crêpe batter very often despite the fact that I absolutely love them. Perhaps it’s because my recipe takes some planning as it needs to rest overnight and I am usually spur of the moment when it comes to dessert. Although a once a year indulgence, I am hoping to work them into the rotation more often.  I had salted caramel sauce leftover from this recipe and rather than eat the caramel straight off the spoon,  I decided to pair it with these crêpes. A fantastic choice indeed, we ate them for dessert and then again for breakfast the following morning.

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Here’s a similar recipe that does not require overnight resting time. Salted caramel recipe here.

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Serrano Bacon Cheddar Pull Apart Bread

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While many are focusing on starting the new year off with salads and all manner of healthy foods, here I am attempting to entice you with a carb loaded bread bomb. Why? Because it’s delicious. Simple as that. And, it’s easy to make and will imprerss your guests when you pull this out of the oven. One bite and it’s all over. You are a genius.

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Jalapeno Bacon Cheddar Pull Apart Bread:

1 medium size loaf or boule of bread*

5 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

1 serrano chile, chopped fine

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2 pieces bacon, cut into small cubes

2 oz (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon spicy paprika

1 handful parsley, coarsely chopped

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook bacon in a dry saute pan over medium heat until crisp. All of the fat should have melted and the meat should be crisp but not burnt. Remove bacon bits to a small dish.

Reduce heat to low and add the garlic. Cook until garlic softens and becomes translucent, remove from heat. The garlic should not brown at all or it will taste bitter. Remove from heat if garlic is beginning to color. Set aside.

Combine bacon, garlic, bacon drippings, cheese, chile, butter, paprika, and parsley in a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Set aside.

Slice the bread into ½- ¾” grid. Begin with parallel cuts ½- ¾” thick across the surface of the boule/loaf. Slice almost to the bottom, but not all the way through. About 1” should be intact at the bottom. Turn loaf/boule 90 degrees and repeat slices perpendicular. You should have a grid when done.

Using a rubber spatula, in the center of the cut boule/loaf, begin to fill each row with the cheese mixture. Once the parallel slices are filled, continue on to fill perpendicular slices until all rows are filled. Make sure to push the cheese mixture down to the bottom as you fill.  Go back and fill any other rows with leftover cheese mixture until it is all used up.

Place on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 10- 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bread is golden brown. Serve immediately.

*We baked the bread from scratch, but a store bought boule/loaf will serve the same purpose just fine.

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