Burrata Pizza and Thanksgiving Thoughts

My two favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Passover. No wonder! It is because I cook big meals for family and friends at both. I was just looking at my photographs from last year. Please, come reminisce with me…

I get plenty of pizza dough for the week from the local Italian market so I can make pizza with my nephews while they are here visiting. It has become a tradition. And late Friday night after Thanksgiving last year, the adults had burrata pizza with the remaining pizza dough as we relaxed and drank Champagne.
Another tradition we have here is called “Leftover Day.” Family and friends are invited to come by from 1 to 5 PM the day after the big feast to eat leftovers, drink Bloody Marys, and chill out. This year, I have a new basketball court so everyone can shoot some hoops! Whoo Hoo! We get a HoneyBaked Ham so if anyone is done with turkey, have ham! And everyone is encouraged to bring their leftovers. We heat them up and put them on the buffet too. Additionally this year I promised my brother I would have a panini maker, so we can make some awesome turkey or ham sandwiches with all those leftover goodies smashed and grilled together.

OK, back to burrata pizza. Top the dough with a mixture of olive oil, chopped parsley, and garlic, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake until just slightly crispy, remove from the oven, then top with burrata. Big hit! Other ways we enjoyed burrata last year can be found here.

Ha! I am sending this photo to my blogger friend Sandi at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking for her Centerpiece of the Month Event. Every year this ROCK gets big laughs. Yes, it is just a rock I found on the beach but its place card gives everyone a good chuckle on Bird Day. To see some really beautiful centerpieces, do check out Sandi’s monthly event!

This is another laugh I get every year. I spend a good deal of time on the appetizers; including fine cheese platters, homemade dips, and barbecuing fresh oysters. But do you know what disappears first? Lil’ Smokies with two sauces: BBQ sauce and a blend of mustard and mayo. Some things never change. Maybe you have a similar experience?

This is another one of my photos from last year. My nephew Stone and my little pooch Mrs. O’Mally had a special connection. On this morning, Stone, in his pajamas, is just sitting on the couch rubbing her belly. She passed away on October 22, 2008. Everyone will miss her this year, I suspect Stone and myself most of all.

Here on the Saturday morning after Thanksgiving, Stone says goodbye to Mally as the family is getting ready to catch their plane back to Chicago. She was always so relaxed with him. He carried her around all week. It was a very special bond.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season this year. And to my blogger friends, I so look forward to reading about your holiday recipes and parties. Ah, Thanksgiving – I am so grateful for the reminder to give thanks for blessings great and small.

A Passion for Cheese

Love cheese? Us too. Browsing through my photo library I came across cheese photographs from various restaurants where we dined over the last couple years. The photos bring back memories of excellent meals. I thought I would compile them, thinking the presentations and accompaniments could provide inspiration for serving a cheese course or cheeseboard at the next dinner party.

Morels French Steakhouse, Las Vegas

Guy Savoy, Las Vegas

Custom House, Chicago

AOC, Los Angeles

David Burke Fromagerie, Rumson, New Jersey
Daniel, New York City

Guy Savoy

Alex, Las Vegas
Balthazar, New York City
The Girl and The Fig, Sonoma, California
Carneros Wine Bar, Sonoma, California

With holiday entertaining right around the corner, I’m definitely looking forward to serving cheese. And I’ll be borrowing ideas on presentation and accompaniments from some of these restaurants where we thoroughly enjoyed the cheese course. I like variety, balance of strength and character of the cheese, paired with interesting flavorful accompaniments.
Cheeses:
  • Milk: Cow, Sheep, Goat
  • Textures: Soft to Hard
  • Taste: Mild to Strong
  • Various Origins
  • A Variety of Shapes and Colors
Accompaniments:
  • Bread: Baguette, Fruit & Nut Bread, Herbed Bread, Lavosh
  • Fruitcake: Dried Fig Cake, Dried Date Cake
  • Nuts: Almond, Walnut, Hazelnut, Pecan
  • Candied Nuts
  • Fresh Fruits: Fig, Grape, Apple, Pear, Melon
  • Dried Fruits: Fig, Date, Raisin, Plum, Apricot
  • Honey, Honeycomb
  • Chutney
  • Fruit Compote
  • Fruit Paste: Quince, Apricot, Plum, Pear, Fig
  • Cured Meats: Thinly-sliced, Room-temperature
  • Olives
  • Drizzled Olive Oil
  • Duck Confit
  • Micro-thin Sliced Onions
  • Caperberries
  • Roasted Peppers and Tomatoes 
  • And, of course, Wine!

Classic Combinations:

  • Manchego & Quince Paste & Serrano Ham & Green Olives
  • Cheddar & Chutney & Apple
  • Stilton & Pear & Walnut
  • Gorgonzola & Fig & Honey
  • Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella & Tomato, Basil and Olive Oil

Do you have a special cheese or an interesting flavor pairing to share?

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Goat Cheese, Fall Salad

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Goat Cheese
Roasted Beets
Green Salad with Pepitas and Walnuts
Pumpkin Seed Oil Balsamic Vinaigrette

Roasted/salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are ground in a food processor then mixed with panko breadcrumbs.

A peppered goat cheese medallion is dipped in egg then coated with the pumpkin seed breadcrumb mixture.

The medallion is fried in peanut oil until golden, then transferred to a paper towel while the salad is composed. Sprinkle the hot medallion with a little sea salt.

Combine equal amounts of pumpkin seed oil and walnut oil with balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and salt & pepper for the dressing. Toss with mixed greens, roasted pepitas, walnuts, then serve with roasted beets. 
Another tasty salad using this walnut oil can be found here. This pumpkin seed oil is from the Styrian region of Austria. I seem to be on an Austrian kick lately, first with my new favorite wine,  Grüner Veltliner and now this oil. And if you visit Merisi’s blog, I’m sure you will fall in love with Austria too. 

I am submitting this dish to Lore of Culinarty blog for her Original Recipes ongoing event. I’ve made Chèvre Chaud many times but never used pumpkin seed as a coating. Very happy with the result. 
Have you tried pumpkin seed oil? I just recently found it at the market and would be interested to hear how you are using it. A terrific product for Fall, I’m excited to experiment. La Tourangelle’s website has a recipe using pumpkin seed oil with salmon sashimi. Hmmm

Mushroom Egg Foo Young with Gravy

mushroom egg foo young

Mushroom Egg Foo Young
I grew up in Chicago.
Every Sunday we would have Chinese take-out for dinner.
As a kid, one of my favorite dishes was the mysterious egg foo young.
Back then, the only ingredient that I knew it contained for sure, was egg.

Blend 4 eggs with 2 T. flour, then add a finely chopped shallot, a couple sliced scallions, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

Add about a cup each of chopped bean sprouts and cooked brown mushrooms.

Heat vegetable oil in an omelette pan then ladle in half of the egg mixture. This recipe makes 2.  Cook over medium high heat until the bottom browns. Finish cooking the top side under the broiler.

Meanwhile prepare the gravy by making a light brown roux with 2 T. each vegetable oil and flour. Slowly add a cup of beef (or vegetable) stock, finish with a splash of dry sherry, salt and pepper to taste.

Place a serving platter on the pan and flip the egg foo young over onto the platter.
Top with gravy and garnish with scallions and parsley.
Egg Foo Young, demystified and delicious.
Do you remember an exotic dish from your childhood?

Artichoke & Cambozola Quiche

If Camembert and Gorgonzola are among your faves you will love this Cheese Marriage Made in Heaven.

Cambozola is a German triple cream cow’s milk cheese reminiscent of French Camembert inoculated with the same blue mold used to make Italian Gorgonzola.

For the Quiche: The pie crust is pressed into the Le Creuset pan. Most of the rind is removed from the cheese and it is roughly sliced.

Frozen artichoke hearts are cooked, drained, cooled, and seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Place artichokes atop the cheese. Add the custard. Go here for my basic quiche custard recipe. Bake at 350 for about an hour maybe 1 and 1/4 hour.

The cheese melts thoughout the quiche, so the flavor is in every bite just like the Brie, Toasted Almond & Herb Quiche.

Didn’t get enough of that delicious Cambozola? Try a green salad, tossed with walnuts, baby heirloom tomatoes, and roasted walnut vinaigrette with warm Cambozola on toasted multi-grain baguette.

Mascarpone Sorbet

There are some fabulous recipes for Mascarpone Sorbet out there, Thomas Keller’s comes to mind. This is not that. You don’t need an ice cream maker or any special skills for that matter. Just for fun, you might want to check out this post on his recipe.

Then compare this one: Soften a pint of lemon sorbet on the counter. Put that in a food processor with 6 oz. of mascarpone cheese. Blend. Spoon into pretty serving cups or ramekins and refreeze. Defrost slightly before serving for optimum complex, creamy, tangy flavor.
Can you envision endless possibilities for a garnish? Strawberry slices, mint leaves, lemon wheel, maraschino cherry, a dollop of chutney, candied flower petals…Keller serves his with rhubarb confit and candied fennel.
My recipe technique is so embarrassingly simple, that I am reluctant to share it with my guests. But I’m happy share it with you.