mini curried squash soup, unique garnishes

a 3 oz. portion of spicy curried butternut squash soup with creme fraiche
garnished with toasted coconut, chopped cashews, dried pomegranate arils

As I tinker with my table setting ideas for our holiday parties
here’s what’s been playing on the stereo:

This year’s Christmas Compilation is a mix of classic and contemporary.

Play List
Dean Martin – A Marshmallow World
Rod Stewart & Dolly Parton – Baby It’s Cold Outside
Bing Crosby – It’s Beginning to Look Like Christmas
The Christmas Party Singers – Mary’s Boy Child/Oh My Lord
Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby
Elvis Presley – Blue Christmas
Jimmy Buffett – Mele Kalikimaka
Barbra Steisand – Jingle Bells?
The Carpenters – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Andy Williams – It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The Beach Boys – Little Saint Nick
Frank Sinatra – White Christmas
U2 – Christmas, Baby Please Come Home
Louis Armstrong – Winter Wonderland
The Carpenters – Merry Christmas Darling
Elvis Presley – Here Comes Santa Claus
Stevie Nicks – Silent Night
The Carpenters – The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
Johnny Mathis with the Percy Faith Orchestra – Sleigh Ride
Jimmy Buffett – Christmas in the Caribbean
Burl Ives – Holly Jolly Christmas

What are you listening to as you bake cookies, trim your tree, and plan your holiday menus?

Continue reading “mini curried squash soup, unique garnishes”

A Peachy Dessert

Fresh Local Peaches
Puff Pastry Filled with Peach Jam and Brie
A Drizzle of Honey
Whipped Crème Fraîche

We made this dessert when I was in Chicago visiting my family. We were shopping at Whole Foods Market and asked the produce manager what his favorite fruit was that day. He said, “Local Illinois Peaches.” So that is what we bought and how this dessert came to be.
Initially we were going to grill or sauté the peaches in butter with sugar, but they tasted so delightful as is, we decided to leave them as nature intended. What shall we serve to complement these beauties? Last month I made a Baked Brie in Fillo with Preserves, that became the inspiration here. Tangy whipped crème fraîche would provide the perfect balance to the sweet fruit.
The photo above is of my neighbor’s peach tree here in Los Angeles. They told me to help myself. YAY! More peachy desserts are on the way! And a big thank you to my generous neighbors!

Cut puff pastry sheets into squares. Fill each square with a generous spoonful of peach jam and a piece of brie. Fold the corners together. Brush the pastry with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until puffed and golden brown.

Slice the peaches and arrange on the plates. Place warm puff pastry in the center, drizzle with honey then top with whipped crème fraîche.
A Splendid and Easy Peachy Dessert!

Bejeweled Salmon

Fresh Wild Kenai River Sockeye Salmon
Roasted with Creme Fraiche
Over Emerald Seaweed Salad
Topped with Coral Ikura

Seaweed Salad: Mix bright green seaweed with a small amount of toasted sesame oil, seasoned rice wine vinegar, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds.

Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper. To get the skin extra crispy, I put the salmon skin-side down over a sizzling hot teaspoon of olive oil in a ovenproof sauté pan and sear on the stove top over high heat for a few minutes.

Then top the salmon with crème fraîche and finish by roasting in a 400° oven. Serve over the seaweed salad, top with ikura (salmon roe). The terrific idea for roasting salmon with crème fraîche is not mine. I read Molly Wizenberg’s story of her father’s Alaskan fishing trips in Bon Appétit, and being a big fan of this French cultured cream, I thought I would try her method. The charming story can be found here.

Bejeweled Salmon: Coral & Emerald
Alaskan salmon, prepared French/Japanese fusion style, has bright clean flavors, a variety of interesting textures, and is a visual stunner!

Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Veal, Portobello, Fried Sage

Grilled Portobello Mushroom
Sautéed Veal Medallion
Wild Mushroom Agnolotti
Pinot Noir Veal Stock Reduction
with Crème Fraîche & Fried Sage

Thank you to the folks at Foodbuzz and Buitoni for the sample of the new Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. We had a great time cooking up a unique presentation for this delicious pasta!

Portobellos are seasoned with olive oil, salt and pepper then grilled until tender.

Veal medallions, cut into the same size as the portobellos, are seasoned with salt and pepper, dusted with flour and sautéed until golden brown over medium heat in a mixture of half olive oil half butter. Squeeze 1 T. fresh lemon juice over the veal then remove from the pan. Keep warm.

Add 1/4 c. minced shallots and 1/2 t. thyme to that same pan and sauté briefly. Add 1 c. Pinot Noir, raise the heat to high, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of pan.

Continue cooking over high heat until the wine is reduced to about a quarter cup.

Add 1 c. veal stock to the pan and reduce again.

Meanwhile, cook the agnolotti according to the instructions on the package in boiling water with  1 T. olive oil.

When the veal stock has reduced by half, whisk 3 T. crème fraîche into the sauce. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve. Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Sauté a handful of fresh sage leaves in 1 T. butter, turning once, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Remove sage leaves to a paper towel.

To assemble: Place the warm portobello in the center of the plate, top with a fried sage leaf then a medallion of veal. Take 3 wild mushroom agnolotti and surround the mushroom cap. Sparingly ladle warm Pinot Noir Cream Sauce over the pasta and veal. Crumble fried sage leaves by hand and sprinkle over dish. Garnish with a whole sage leaf.

Why we loved this: Different textures and flavors that complemented each other well. The sauce was a high-note accent to the dish, adding flavor, color, and elegance. The fried sage melts in the mouth and tastes like savory candy.

Alternative plating idea: We served the sage leaves whole and add crumbled blue cheese.

We are excited to enter this dish in the Buitoni recipe contest. Come join in the fun, the contest is open until April 30th. Go to Foodbuzz and click on Flavor-of -the Month for details. The prize is an All-Clad Copper Core Cookware set.

And I want to thank my brother Bill. You should all be so lucky as to have Bill helping in the kitchen. I think from his military training and years as a Captain, he takes orders like a professional sous chef, pays attention to every detail. Although he does not answer me with “Yes, Chef” he will not leave my home until every dish is washed and the entire kitchen is spotless. And he gave me a good chuckle when said he would be happy to take that All-Clad Copper Core Cookware for his new home in the Florida Keys. Such a nice supportive brother! Anybody in that area that can cook for him? He likes everything but peanut butter.

Beet Soup with Truffle Oil

Beet Soup
White Truffle Oil
Crème Fraîche

Cover the beets with water. Bring to boil then simmer until very tender. When beets are cool enough to handle; trim, peel and slice.

Strain the beet cooking liquid through a coffee filter, reserve.

While the beets cook, bring stock to a boil in a large soup pot. Add carrot, cabbage, onion, garlic, tomato, bay leaves. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Approximate Quantities:
  • 4 or 5 beets
  • 1 chopped head cabbage
  • 1 sliced medium onion
  • 4 sliced carrots
  • 7 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch dill
  • 1 large can seeded peeled tomatoes
  • 8 c. stock ((beef or vegetable)
  • sugar, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste
  • truffle oil and crème fraîche for garnish

After about 30 minutes, add sliced beets, beet liquid, and a bunch of dill. And red wine vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove bay. Purée with an immersion blender. Adjust seasonings.

Serve hot or cold. Drizzle crème fraîche, white truffle oil, dill sprig garnish. In the last post, I was pondering the value of “optional” ingredients. The truffle oil here is not optional. It is what makes this soup special!
One of the best wine pairings I can remember was enjoyed at Chef Nancy Oakes’ Boulevard in San Francisco where Chioggia beets (Italian heirloom variety) were paired with a fruity flavorful red wine from Brouilly. Definitely try this soup with a Brouilly if you can find one, if not, try a more readily available Beaujolais.

Delightful Color, Cheery Garnish
Highly Nutritious
Delicious Deep Earthy Flavors

Caramelized Apples in Puff Pastry Shell

Caramelized Apples Flambéd with Cognac,
In a Puff Pastry Shell with Crème Fraîche


This is a great dessert especially for those of us who are not advanced bakers.
Pepperidge Farm even tells us which side of the pastry is up. haha

Bake the Puff Pastry shells at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.
Use a fork to remove the T O P.

Melt butter and brown sugar, cook the apples until soft.
Add a pinch of salt.

This is also a great dessert for those of us who like to light our food on fire.
Add Cognac (or Calvados) to the pan to flambé.
For tips on flambéing, go here.

Ladle the warm apples and sauce into the shell and finish with a dollop of crème fraîche.

Six Ingredients, Fancy Dessert:
  • apples
  • brown sugar
  • butter
  • puff pastry shells
  • cognac or calvados
  • crème fraîche