Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Riff on Eggs Benedict

I am writing sporadically lately, because I am in the process of packing up my house, preparing to move. A tedious process, and time consuming. Still, I had to share something. The last time I wrote I gave the recipe for Rosemary Parmesan Biscuits, which were awesome. I cannot recall if I wrote about my desire to try them as a base for a sort of Eggs Benedict? Well, I did. Try it, I mean. OMG.

I always prefer to make things from scratch, so I had the biscuits, which I toasted, cut in half, face down in the pan where I had cooked up some bacon, and then fried some potatoes. I made a quick Hollandaise sauce for one:

Hollandaise for One

1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar or lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

¼ teaspoon salt, or less

Set a small pan of water to simmer. Have everything measured and ready, with the melted butter at hand. Test a small bowl; when set over the simmering water the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. With the bowl off the pan of water, place the egg yolk and the water. Whisk together and set over the simmering water, whisking briskly until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the vinegar or lemon juice and whisk again until the mixture begins to thicken. With this small amount, it will not take long. Slowly, drizzle in the melted butter, whisking constantly until the mixture has grown in volume and is smooth and creamy. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Once I removed the hollandaise from over the simmering water, I added a splash of vinegar to the water and cracked in two eggs to poach for 3½ minutes. I cut each of the 2 slices of bacon into 2 pieces and laid them onto the biscuit halves. I set the poached eggs on top of the bacon and spooned the hollandaise over the eggs. It was a remarkable breakfast. Very rich, and not one I do often - maybe once every couple of years. The timing was right, the biscuits were fantastic and I just love Eggs Benedict. This was a bit of a riff on that concept of English Muffins, Canadian Bacon and Poached Eggs, but oh my was it good!

I hope someone out there gives this a try.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, April 22, 2013

Three Recipes made an Excellent Dinner

Pork Tenderloin in Dukkah Seasoning
Continuing on with trying out foods and pairings, since I have so many wines fresh in my memory, last evening I recreated 2 recent recipes, but with an addition. I had made Pork Tenderloin in Dukkah Seasoning a couple of weeks back for some friends. An inspired pairing with the Rioja wine I served. Ever since that night, I have been thinking of making the pork again, since it was so very good, and I didn't get to taste much of it. I made aioli from scratch and served little medallions of the pork on thin slices of baguette with the aioli. 

This is a recipe made from scratch. You will need a strong arm and a whisk, or make this with an immersion blender or regular blender. The consistency is just beautiful and the flavor is just divine. Add the parsley or not, as desired. Parsley helps counteract "garlic breath", so you decide. The little bit of vinegar helps counteract the garlic effects also.


Aioli on Baguette Slices
Aioli on Baguette Slices

Makes about 1 cup

2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ teaspoon white vinegar, optional
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley, optional
1½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt

½ cup olive oil

In a little bowl combine the teaspoon of vinegar with the garlic. Allow to stand for a couple of minutes (this takes the sharp bite from the garlic). In a blender, or container for immersion blender, place the egg yolks. Add the parsley and blend to combine. Add in the lemon juice and the garlic with the vinegar and the salt. Blend to combine. With the blender running, drizzle very slowly the olive oil. DO not allow the olive oil to pool, but keeping it always blended in. It may take some time to incorporate all the olive oil. Once incorporated, you should have a beautiful, silky green/gold aioli mixture, as seen above. The trick is incorporating the olive oil properly, which allows the emulsion to take place. Taste for salt; if it needs more, start with ¼ teaspoon. Add pepper if desired. 

Okay, that part was easy, because I had everything I needed. I thawed the pork and got it marinating in Hoisin sauce. In the meantime, I was thinking about biscuit recipes and I got an idea. I went ahead with it and mixed up the biscuits as I was thinking of it. The recipe was quite savory, and I thought these biscuits would go very well with the pork. Here is the recipe, which made 8 large biscuits:

Rosemary Parmesan Biscuits

Rosemary Parmesan Biscuits
Rosemary Parmesan Biscuits
¾ cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons shallot, finely minced (about 1 medium shallot)
½ cup Parmesan, finely grated
¼ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 stick cold, unsalted butter
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Coarse salt, for sprinkling

In a small bowl, combine the evaporated milk and vinegar; stir and set aside to thicken. (Buttermilk may be substituted for this step). Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sift together the first 5 ingredients into a medium bowl. Alternatively, place ingredients into bowl and whisk to combine. Add in the next 5 ingredients and whisk together. Grate the stick of butter with a large holed grater, into the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter with the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add in the thickened milk and toss with a fork to combine. Once mixture begins to come together, gather the dough into a ball. If the dry ingredients are not coming together add up to 2 tablespoons more milk. Do not make the mixture too soft.

Turn out onto a floured surface and flatten the dough. Fold it over and flatten again, and repeat about 5 more times. This gives the finished biscuits beautiful layers. Pat out the dough to about ¾ inch thick and cut biscuits with a 3 inch cutter. Set onto a lightly greased baking sheet, well apart. Brush tops with the melted butter and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 15 minutes, until risen and browned.
The Final Product
While roasting the pork tenderloin (about 25 minutes at 450 degrees), I made a new batch of Aioli. This time I didn't have any parsley on hand, so I made it without. I am also in the process of packing up the house to move soon, and had packed up my immersion blender. Since I made the aioli with that little blender last time, it was the first place I went. Alas, it was no longer in its place. So, for the first time, I made a mayonnaise by hand with a whisk. It went far faster than I had expected and was quite simple. Likely it was because the recipe is very small, but the results were as silky smooth and beautifully yellow as last time, minus the parsley. Once the biscuits were done, we sat down to eat, and that combination of the pork with the Dukkah seasonings, the Parmesan Rosemary Biscuits and Aioli was just like heaven.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Making Good Wine and Food Pairings

I hope everyone is not tired of me writing about the Winefest Renaissance! It was a lively evening, the first of what will hopefully be an annual event. All the proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen; a worthy and noble cause.

The fact is that though I am still recuperating a bit from all the cooking and inventing of recipes last week, it was really fun and rewarding. I found that making up recipes from scratch is not as hard as I once thought. I found that while I knew in past I had made some really great wine and food pairings, this is the first time they were served to the public. Serving to family members is one thing. Being family they are more forgiving. I had not dealt much with public. Last year I did appetizer foods for a retirement party, which hosted a lot of people I didn't know, but the venue was familiar, and family and friends were involved. This Winefest was really public in all senses. It was well received, for which I am grateful. Many of the foods were praised repeatedly and for that I am not only grateful, but relieved and fulfilled. I am so grateful for my talents and the ability to give people a pleasurable experience.

Wine tasting is an interesting experience. There are so many styles of wine and so many grape varieties. One vintner's style with a grape can be so far different from another's as to be unrecognizable. Some wines go best with food. Some are terrific all by themselves. Some can go either way. The thing is to have an open mind. Don't blacklist a grape on the basis of one wine. Try others, try it with food. My goal for this Winefest Renaissance was to instruct people to taste the wine first. Take some time examining what flavors and aromas are present. What does one like or dislike about the wine. Is it enjoyable?

Once that part is done with, try the wine with food. Obviously not just any food will be a good match for any wine. That is where my talents came into play. I have tasted a lot of wines in the course of the last 25 years. I have had ample opportunity to taste wines with various foods and develop a sense of the flavors of each, and how they harmonize. The common phrase is "wine and cheese", yet not just any cheese will pair with just any wine. Knowing what works best together and presenting these flavors to the public was my part of this event. I tried to present each wine in the very best light, creating the foods that would pair best and bring out the best flavor of both the wine and the food. There were many people who commented that the wine alone was not one they would really like to sit around and sip. With the food, however, it was just wonderful. And that was the whole point.

I created a sheet with different wine grape varieties that cross referenced the foods and flavors that go best with each wine. It is easy, though time consuming at first, to go online and research. Look at any site that talks about a Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, and see what food pairings are recommended. Being a bold wine, Cabernet pairs well with bold flavors. I researched recommendations for about 20 kinds of wine in order to put this sheet together. When I contemplated creating recipes to go with the 6 wines I chose, I used that list. I went down the column of choices and selected items that sounded like a good combination for a recipe. In the case of the Cabernet Sauvignon, I chose beef, walnuts, rosemary and Gorgonzola cheese (see the recipe in my blog of 4-14-2013). These flavors were perfect with the wine.

For the Pinot Noir, I chose figs, mushrooms, and goat cheese from the list and created little tarts by first sauteeing the mushrooms; the figs were soaked in Sherry and drained and added to the mushrooms. With the addition of crumbled goat cheese and placed into mini pie pastries, these flavors went perfectly with the wine. 

Fig, Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tarts

Fig, Mushroom & Goat Cheese Tarts 

Makes about 75

Pie pastry for three 10-inch pies
6 ounces dried figs, cut into very small bits
¼ cup dry sherry (1/3 cup if the figs are very dry)
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound “baby bella” mushrooms, chopped into very small bits
½ cup shallot, chopped very finely
1 tablespoons finely minced fresh rosemary, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Pepper, to taste

6 ounces chevre goat cheese

Line three large mini tart pans with pie pastry. This can be done well ahead and the pastries frozen until time to fill and bake.

Check the figs to see if they are very dry or retain some moisture. Put fig bits into a relatively flat container and pour the sherry over. If they are not too dry, use the smaller amount of dry sherry to soak them. If they are quite dry, use the larger amount. Set aside for at least an hour, to plump. When ready to proceed with the recipe, pour off any remaining sherry into a cup; reserve liquid for later.

The amounts of the mushrooms call for sauteing them in two batches. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and put in half the shallots to saut̩ for 1 to 2 minutes, to soften. Raise heat to high and add half the mushrooms, stirring very frequently for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms have evaporated any liquids and are browned. Add half the rosemary and salt. Add in half the fig soaking liquid and cook to evaporate completely. Remove the mushrooms to a bowl. Repeat this process with remaining butter, shallots, mushrooms, rosemary, salt and reserved fig liquid. Combine the figs with the mushrooms and combine. This mixture may be made ahead and kept refrigerated for 2 Р3 days . Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Crumble the goat cheese and gently combine with the mushroom and fig mixture. You want the goat cheese to retain form; not make the mixture muddy looking. Spoon mixture into the tart shells. Bake the mini tarts for about 20 Р25 minutes, or until the tart shells are browned and the filling is bubbling. Serve hot or cool.

For the Sauvignon Blanc I chose asparagus, pine nuts and goat cheese and used them to make little tats on puff Pastry. Each appetizer pairing was well planned so the flavors would bring out the best qualities in the wines. Take time to research when serving foods and wines. Obviously, one cannot always have every person tasting the exact wine to go with the exact food, although when showcasing a wine, it is worth the time and effort.

Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Pine Nut Tarts 

Asparagus, Pine Nut & Goat Cheese Tarts
This could as easily be made as one large tart for brunch or dinner, accompanied by a green leafy salad.

Makes 30 – 36 (2x3” or 3x3”) individual tarts from each puff pastry sheet

1 box puff pastry, thawed for at least 40 minutes on counter top
1 bunch asparagus, tough ends snapped off
1 teaspoon garlic salt
Few grinds of black pepper
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup Parmesan, shredded
¼ cup mayonnaise
6 ounces Chevre or Montrachet goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup pine nuts

In a zip top bag, place the asparagus. Over top, sprinkle the garlic salt, pepper and olive oil and toss to combine well. Set aside for a few minutes. In a small bowl, combine together the Parmesan and mayonnaise and set aside.

Grill or broil the asparagus until just barely tender. Cut the asparagus into approximately ½ inch bits and set aside. Preheat oven to 375.

Unfold one sheet of puff pastry sheet and roll it to about 15 x 18 inches, or to fit a large baking sheet. Cut the large sheet into either 3 x 3-inch squares or slightly smaller 2 x 3 inch squares, using a sharp knife or a pastry wheel. Prick the centers well with a knife or fork. Bake the plain pastry for 6 minutes. Remove and quickly press down the centers of the pastry squares. Return to oven and bake another 6 minutes. Remove from oven and press down centers again.

While the first pastry is baking, roll out the second sheet, if using, and repeat the above instructions.

Using the back of a teaspoon, smear about ½ teaspoon of the mayonnaise and Parmesan mixture into the center of each partially baked square. Place about 1½ to 2 teaspoons of the asparagus pieces into the center. Sprinkle on about 4 – 6 pine nuts per square. Press about 1 teaspoon of the goat cheese crumbles onto the top. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 - 12 minutes, until the pastry is golden and the cheese has started to brown in patches.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Winefest Renaissance 2013; a Success

Well, the Winefest Rennaisance 2013 event was held last evening at the Ward Hotel in Aberdeen. All proceeds were for the benefit of the Boys and Girls club of Aberdeen. Mine was the official Wine and Food Pairing and Rating table. My sister in law came to help me out, for which I am extremely grateful. My foods were a hit, and my pairings were spot-on. Word got around and we had people waiting for a seat most of the time. It was a little bit of a madhouse at first. The idea was to have people rate the wines as they tasted, and some did work at it early on. After an hour or so of tasting all kinds of wines, few people had any interest at all in the rating part. The food and the wine pairings continued to hold their interest. 

Squash, Apple, Leek and Asiago Triangles
Squash, Apple, Leek and Asiago Triangles

In all, I created 8 new recipes just for this event. I wrote about the Squash, Apple, Leek and Asiago mixture. I made extra to fill a galette for dinner a few nights back. Last night I served the mixture rolled into Phyllo triangles. Sadly, they were the least sought after of the appetizers. Most people wanted to try a particular food, so they were served the wine that paired with that food. The Squash Apple Leek and Asiago Triangles were delicious paired with the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay Grand Reserve. The flavor of the apples was made more apparent when the wine was sampled alongside the appetizer.

The absolute biggest hit of the night was the Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread, which was served paired with the Conn Creek 'Herrick' Cabernet Sauvignon blend. The pairing was particularly wonderful together, but people just liked the Flank Steak flavors and word got around. We had people saying, "I heard I had to come down here and try these little Steak Appetizers!" Not the wine, mind you, though it was a great wine for the pairing.

Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread

Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread
Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Walnut Spread
Makes about 50 rolls, depending on size of steak

1 flank steak, cleaned of excess fat

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large knob fresh ginger, grated (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon chipotle powder
1½ teaspoons salt
Few grinds of black pepper
½ cup olive oil

½ cup walnuts
¾ cup Gorgonzola crumbles, about 4 ounces
2 ounces cream cheese
2½ teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
½ teaspoon Grains of Paradise
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons good olive oil 

Fresh Rosemary sprigs for garnish

Combine marinade ingredients in a zip-top bag, place the flank steak into the marinade so it lays flat and marinate overnight, turning at least once to redistribute the marinade. 

MAKE GORGONZOLA SPREAD: Heat oven to 375 degrees. Place walnuts onto a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly before chopping into very small bits. Set aside.

Place the Gorgonzola crumbles and the cream cheese with the rosemary into a medium bowl. Blend these ingredients together using a hand mixer or a wooden spoon. With a mortar and pestle, crush the Grains of paradise. Add the salt, pepper and the garlic cloves and smash to a dry paste. Add to the bowl of cheeses and mix well. Add in the olive oil and mix until well combined. Fold in the nuts. 

  • If you do not have Grains of Paradise, add in at least another ¼ teaspoon of black pepper.
  • If you do not own a mortar and pestle, crush the Grains of Paradise in a small zip-top bag with the flat side of a heavy meat tenderizer. Smash the garlic thoroughly and combine in a small bowl with the back of a spoon, along with the salt and pepper.
  • If using a block of Gorgonzola cheese rather than crumbles, it may be slightly moister than the crumbles. Watch when adding the olive oil as all may not be needed. 
BROIL FLANK STEAK: Heat the broiler with a rack quite close to the element. Set a rack on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray; this helps with cleanup later. Remove the steak from the bag and discard the marinade. Set steak on rack and broil for 6 minutes on each side. The meat should be medium rare. Remove from oven and tent with foil for at least 15 minutes.

Slice the meat at an angle across the grain of the meat. The long strips can then be cut in half. Make little balls with about a scant teaspoon of the Gorgonzola Walnut Spread. Roll each of the strips of meat around a ball of the spread. Skewer with a toothpick to hold in place. Garnish with the rosemary leaves.

NOTE: I never like to toast walnuts or any nuts when recipes call for this. The gorgonzola walnut spread was meant to have strong flavors to pair with an assertive Cabernet Sauvignon. In the recipe for the spread I did toast the walnuts, as I felt this would make the flavor stand out more. I had so many raves over this recipe, both for the flavors of meat and filling themselves, as well as for how well they paired with the wine.

Indian Spiced Chicken with Cilantro Sauce

The pairing that surprised me the most was the Anderra Carmenere and the Indian Spiced Chicken with Cilantro Sauce. I hoped the flavors would go well together. I had not tasted any of the wines prior to creating these recipes, so I was going strictly on the descriptions for the wines that I could find online. The Anderra, being from Chile, seemed like it should go well with spices and cilantro. I smelled the wine when I opened it and was pretty sure it wouldn't be a wine I liked, just based on that initial sniff. As with all things, one should not judge too quickly. When I actually tasted it, it surprised me no end. Flavors of pepper and cherry came through and made it quite interesting. I tasted it with the Indian Spiced Chicken with the Cilantro Sauce and it was amazing. I had been having people ask for that wine and food pairing second only to the Cabernet and Flank Steak.

I will write more on this event in a couple of days, but for now, I am glad it is over, and now I can focus on such other things as making a wedding cake and moving. I believe the Winefest was a success, and if it becomes an annual event, this should have given everyone a solid basis for the knowledge of what went well and what needed improvement. For a first time event of this magnitude, I believe it was spectacular.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Friday, April 12, 2013

Progress on Foods for the Wine Tasting Event

I wrote the other day about the Wine Tasting event coming up this Saturday evening. I have been busily prepping the recipes I created to pair with the 6 wines I will be showcasing. So far, I made the squash and leek mixture for what will (hopefully today) be the little Squash Apple Leek Phyllo Triangles, to be accompanied by the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay Grand Reserve.

First Bite
While I was typing up the recipe, thinking about how good this mixture was, it occurred to me it could also be placed into a 13 x 9 casserole, topped with a little more Asiago mixed with bread crumbs and made into a Squash Apple Leek Gratin. And to take that yet another step further, how about making a galette with the filling? A galette is nothing more than a rustic pie. Using a pie pastry, just roll it out, place on a baking sheet, pile a filling in the middle, leaving about a 3-inch edge. Flip the edges up over, folding as necessary to just hold the filling in place and bake. Easy.

The filling was just so delicious, I decided to make a half batch more with the rest of the squash and apples. I didn't have any more leeks, so I just substituted a thinly sliced onion. I already had pie pastry in the freezer. So there I had a most delicious galette for dinner that night, and probably tonight as well.

Squash, Apple and Leek Gratin with Asiago

Making the galette

Makes one 9 x 13 casserole, about 8 - 10 servings, OR 

4 – 6 leeks, white and light green parts only
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup dry sherry or other dry white wine
1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled
4 (6 to 7 ounce) apples (I used Pink Lady)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
A few grinds of black pepper
1 rounded cup grated Asiago cheese, about 4 ounces, divided
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup heavy cream

1 egg, lightly beaten 

Cut ends off leeks, leaving only the white and lightest sections (from 4 to 6 inches) and slice in half lengthwise. Fan the layers under running water to clean out any mud or grit. Laying flat side down, cut them again lengthwise, then slice across into thin strips, making about 4 cups. Cut off the neck section of the squash, which should make about 1½ pounds. Peel and cut in half lengthwise. Laying flat side down, cut each section into three more lengthwise sections. Slice each of these across into thin pieces about 1 x 1½ inches, making approximately 4 ½ cups. Peel and core the apples and cut into 8 wedges apiece. Slice across the wedges into thin slices, making about 6 cups, total.

In a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add in the leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the Sherry and cook to evaporate, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the squash and toss to combine; cook for another 5 minutes before adding apples. Add in salt and nutmeg and a few grinds of black pepper. Cover and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the squash and apple are just tender. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly for about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375. Mix together the egg yolks and cream. Pour this over the mixture in the pan along with half the Asiago cheese and combine gently.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan and pour the mixture in. Combine the second half of Asiago with the bread crumbs and strew over top of the casserole. Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes, or until the cheese and crumbs on top begin to brown and the casserole is bubbling at the edges.  

NOTES: Serve this with a nice buttery Chardonnay. This recipe is easily cut in half; use an 8 x 8-inch casserole.
Squash Apple Leek Galette with Asiago Cheese

TO MAKE SQUASH, APPLE and LEEK GALETTE with ASIAGO: Make half the recipe amount of filling, omitting the bread crumbs. Reserve a bit of the cheese to sprinkle over top of filling later. Prepare a 10-inch pie pastry single crust. Roll it out into about a 15-inch circle. Set the pastry on a baking sheet or a pizza pan. Into the center, pile the filling mixture into the center and spread to about 11 - 12 inches. Strew remaining cheese over top. Flip the edges of the pastry up over the edges of the filling, folding and pleating as necessary. Make an egg wash from one egg yolk with about 2 tablespoons of water. Brush the egg wash over the pastry edges, being careful not to let it run down underneath the pastry or it will adhere to the pan. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is bubbling. Serves 6 - 8. This can be a main course for brunch, lunch or supper with a nice green salad alongside.


I also made the Gorgonzola Walnut Spread for the Flank Steak, which will be accompanied by Conn Creek "Herrick" Cabernet. Yesterday I started the day by soaking dried figs, chopped small and put to soak in some dry Sherry to use in some mini tarts, while I went outside to shovel the freakishly heavy snowfall we got overnight. These little mini tarts will accompany a Kenwood Pinot Noir. When I came back in, the figs had plumped nicely, and I started working with the mushrooms and shallots, sauteing them on high heat to brown and evaporate all the moisture from the mushrooms. I added in some finely chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper and combined with the drained fig pieces. So far that mixture also tastes really fine. I will be adding in a little log of Chevre goat cheese and then placing the mixture into mini tart pans lined with pie pastry, and then baked. I cannot wait to try those. Even without the cheese, the mixture is delightful.

I also made andouille sausages wrapped in puff pastry and sliced into little coin shapes and baked. The andouille is of local (meaning VERY upper midwest) origin. It is nicely spiced, but not hot-spicy at all. These little andouille coins will accompany the J. Lohr Syrah. Last evening, with an abundance of hamburger in  my freezer leftover from a side of beef from a year back, I got out a package of the hamburger. Since 2 andouille sausages were left from making the little appetizers, I decided to make Hamburger Andouille Gumbo, shown here. Not authentic with hamburger, but the rest of the flavors were, and it was so delicious for dinner last evening.

Today will be another terribly busy day. I have to marinate chicken and broil it, broil some asparagus and chop it, make a cilantro sauce for the chicken, make a marinade for the flank steak, wrap the Squash Apple Leek mixture into the Phyllo, and probably a few other things I am forgetting at the moment. Thank heaven for sticky notes, because right now there are so many of them stuck all over my pages of recipe ideas it looks like a flock of birds in the wind.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Monday, April 8, 2013

Lots of New Recipes to Create

There is a big Wine Tasting event in town this weekend, for the benefit of the Boys and Girls Club of the Aberdeen Area. I am participating in this event by showing people how to rate wines, using actual wine rating sheets, and then tasting food prepared especially for specific wines. If anyone out there has tried a wine and disliked it, you may want to rethink.

Wine and Food Pairings for the Wine Tasting Event
I have held wine tastings in my home, for family or select friends, just to demonstrate what differences can be found when one tastes a wine alone, versus with a food that goes well with the wine. One sister said she didn't like Chablis. Or, for that matter, the Crab Cakes I served with that wine. I asked only that she taste and give it an opportunity. She tasted the Chablis and was pleasantly surprised. We went through the rating process and proceeded to tasting the Crab Cakes. Once tasting the Crab Cakes, which she was reluctant to try, she said they were actually pretty good. Once tasting the Crab Cake with the Chablis, she was shocked! The flavors changed and it was as if it was a completely different wine. The Chablis tasted different, and far better, with the food, and the Crab Cakes became amazing.

This is the way to really find out what ones tastes are. It is not enough to taste a wine once and dismiss the entire scope of that grape on the basis of one wine that didn't meet with approval. There are so many vintners out there in so many countries, all making wines in different styles, out of the same grapes.

Now that I got thoroughly entrenched on my soapbox here, my topic was "lots of new recipes to create". Back to the Wine Tasting event, I am going to hand out rating sheets for 6 of the many, many wines to be tasted at the event. I am also preparing a particular appetizer to go specifically with each of those 6 wines. I researched online what the wine style is for each of these 6 wines, so I could pair a food accurately. That means I have 6 new recipes I will be creating this week. I hope I have some time in between to get back here and report progress.

I am going to be showcasing six wines. The list here shows the wine with the food pairing I am making. I am creating all these are recipes specifically for this event, and while they all "Taste" great in my mind, there is always the question of how they translate into actuality. Until then! Cheers!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wine Tasting, Rating and Pairing Foods

Delightful Rioja
Life is getting hectic. My husband and I hosted a little wine tasting last evening for a couple of friends. We will be a part of a big "Wine Renaissance 2013" event this coming weekend with all proceeds to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen Area. Our little wine tasting last evening was a bit of a primer to show our sponsor what tasting and rating wines is all about.

We have hosted a few wine tastings over the last few years, helping people to try new wines, both alone and then with a food paired for that wine. This helps people to better distinguish what about a wine they like, and if it is one they like alone, or if it is better with food. Using a rating sheet to mark down all pertinent descriptors is another way to learn more about a wine and ones likes or dislikes. I put together some wine rating sheets years ago, but have continued to refine them as time passes and more ideas come up.

Asparagus Appetizers for
White Graves Bordeaux wine

I have an ability to "taste" foods in my mind when reading a recipe, and it serves me very well also when trying to pair foods with wines. I will be making some little appetizer foods to pair with the wines for the Wine Renaissance event next weekend, and that should keep me busy all week long. (Add to that we are moving in a little over a month and I have a huge household to pack up.)

For last night's little wine tasting I served a white Graves from Bordeaux, one I had never tried before, along with three I'd had before, though not recently. Knowing about the styles of a wine helps when pairing foods. I knew that the Graves would be quite dry and minerally, and those kinds generally pair well with something like asparagus. Asparagus can be tricky  to pair with a wine, but these little asparagus appetizers went extremely well, making a slightly austere wine taste more rounded and buttery.

I paired a pork tenderloin, marinated in hoisin sauce and then rolled into Dukkah seasoning and roasted. The Dukkah had almonds and hazelnuts in it along with cumin and coriander and I just felt those flavors would go well with the Rioja wine I served next. I made aioli and spread that onto tiny rounds of bread and broiled the aioli to take the harsh edge of garlic off. One little medallion of the pork went on top. They went so nicely with the Rioja wine. While I served thin slices as an appetizer portion, they can equally well be sliced thicker and served as an entree:

Pork Medallions in Dukkah Seasoning

Pork Medallions in Dukkah Seasoning on bread with aioli:
served with a red Rioja wine

An inspired combination, simple to make, sliced thin and served on baguette slices, these are excellent with a red Rioja wine. Use Aioli to give the meat a little spark of garlic flavor.

Makes about 25 slices

1 pork tenderloin (1 - 1½ pounds)
¾ cup hoisin sauce
¾ cup Dukkah seasoning

Place pork, cleaned of fat or silver skin, into a zip-top bag and pour on the hoisin sauce. Marinate the meat in the hoisin, turning every few hours, for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Place the Dukkah seasoning onto a plate long enough to accommodate the length of the pork. First, using kitchen twine, tie the pork tenderloin in about 5 - 6 places along the length. This ensures the pork comes out in nicely rounded slices. Trim any excess twine. Roll the pork into the Dukkah, pressing so it adheres well. Set aside to rest for at least ½ hour. This drying time helps the Dukkah stay on. Place the roast onto a rack over a baking sheet with sides. Roast at 450 for approximately 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Remove from oven and tent the roast with foil. Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

NOTES: Hoisin sauce will likely contain gluten. Seek out a gluten free hoisin sauce to make this gluten free. If the GF hoisin is not sticky enough for the Dukkah seasoning to adhere, you might mix just a little honey into the hoisin before marinating the meat.

For the third wine, a California Syrah, I made the same little beef rolls from flank steak that I had made before, and again the pairing was perfect. The last wine, a dessert Muscat from California, was a tougher pairing. It is hard to  make a dessert that is not too sweet. If the food is too sweet, the wine will taste sour. I decided to try and make some cookies that were heavy on nuts, as that will usually go well. My little cookies turned out great. I called them Saffron Almond Tea Wafers. They would be perfect with a nice cup of tea or coffee, but they were absolutely perfect for the Muscat dessert wine. 

Saffron Almond Tea Wafers:
paired with a sweet California Muscat wine

Saffron Almond Tea Wafers

Makes about 48 little 1½ x ¼-inch little cookies.

1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup almond "flour" (very finely ground almonds)
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cardamom, ground
½ teaspoon lemon zest, finely minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
⅛ teaspoon saffron threads
2 teaspoons milk, heated
1 egg, lightly beaten

Coarse sugar: "Sparkling" Sugar, Turbinado, Demerara

Place the first 5 ingredients into a large bowl. If you own a mortar and pestle, place the saffron threads into the mortar and grind them to a fine powder. Otherwise, use fingers to powder the threads as well as possible. Add the hot milk to the saffron and set aside.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture in the bowl as for making pie, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the saffron milk to the egg and beat with a fork to combine, then add to the mixture in the bowl and toss together to form a cohesive dough. Cut two pieces of plastic wrap about 12 inches long. Divide the dough into two sections and roll each into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Set a log of dough onto the edge of one of the pieces of plastic wrap and roll the dough into the wrap, tuck edges under. Repeat with second piece of dough. Refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. On a large plate, pour about ⅓-cup of the coarse sugar. Remove one log of dough from its wrapper and roll it, pressing gently, into the sugar to thoroughly coat the edges. Slice the log into ¼-inch thick slices and lay them onto a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Repeat with the second log of dough. Bake the cookies for about 6 to 8 minutes, until they are completely set and the edges just begin to show color. Remove from cookie sheet immediately.

Last night went perfectly and our guest enjoyed the wines and food pairings so that was a success. Now I am geared for next week's event and all the foods to prepare over the course of this week. I am going to invent recipes for all of the 6 wines I will showcase, so recipes will be turning up either here or on my website soon.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest