Monday, September 29, 2008

A roll to build a dream on

I have had a cinnamon roll scratch recipe for probably fifteen years which I adored wholeheartedly before I lost the American Bed and Breakfast Cookbook in which it lived. Meaning to replace it for sometime now but not having had the time (busy with minor tasks, really: Career, relocation's, a parent passing away, surviving a violent crime, decorating, a first child, ugh, and stuff.), I was, let's say, delayed in cruising Amazon for another copy. In the meantime, I noticed the recipe in the most recent Saveur for Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls.

The recipe is a bit of a nudge, in general. The butter does not incorporate neatly, the cream cheese can get a bit too spreadable making things slippery but these issues were quickly managed with a little extra flour to make things less sticky. Saveur also claims this recipe makes 8 rolls. It made 12 for me, so we'll split the difference. I used cranberries instead of raisins and, in honor of my Mother-in-Law, Laura, changed to an orange glaze. That is the way she does it, and in the end, they way I think everyone should. It is just the nip citrus to balance all that sticky sweetness.

The work and the difficulty in certain parts of the method are worth seeing through, because at heart - deep down under all that gooey, sticky, fruity goodness - it is a cloudy, eggy, smooth cinnamon roll bread. It is a dreamy, Saturday morning cinnamon roll, worthy of an actual mug of dark, rich coffee in a real - not paper - cup, The New York Times, soft pj's, and a long lean back in front of a beautiful window. These made me wish Saturday morning could last all weekend long.

Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls with Orange Glaze
10 servings, at least
adapted from Saveur Magazine

This dough may be prepared a day in advance and left to rise in the refrigerator overnight.

1 1⁄4-oz. package active dry yeast
1⁄2 tsp. plus 1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3⁄4 cups flour, sifted, and more for kneading
3⁄4 tsp. fine salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
1⁄4 cup finely chopped pecans
1⁄4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1⁄4 cup sweetened cranberries (raisins, if you prefer)
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. fine salt
1⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 cups confectioners' sugar
4 tablespoons fresh orange juice, more if you need to lighten consistency of icing
1 tablespoon fine orange zest

Make the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a hook, combine yeast, 1⁄2 tsp. of the sugar, and 1⁄4 cup water heated to 115°. Stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add remaining sugar, milk, light brown sugar, vanilla, egg, and egg yolk. Beat on low speed until thoroughly combined, 1 minute. Turn mixer off and add the flour and salt. Mix on medium speed until the dough just comes together. Turn mixer speed to high and knead dough for 4 minutes. Add the butter and continue kneading until dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 6 minutes. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 1 1⁄2–2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Combine the sugar, dark brown sugar, pecans, walnuts, cranberries, cinnamon, salt, and cloves in a large bowl; stir to combine. Set filling aside.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a heavily floured surface. Gently knead the dough until it's no longer sticky, adding more flour as necessary, about 1 minute. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 10" x 10" square. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese with a rubber spatula until it's smooth and spreadable. Spread the cream cheese evenly over the dough square; then fold square into thirds as you would fold a letter to fit it into an envelope. Take the open ends of the resulting rectangle and fold into thirds again, to make a smaller dough square. Invert the dough so that the seam is face down and, using the rolling pin, gently roll into a 10" x 20" rectangle.

Turn the dough so that the short sides are parallel to you. Brush the top of the dough with half of the melted butter. Drizzle the reserved filling over the dough, leaving a 1" border at the edge farthest away from you. Lightly press the filling into the dough. Using your hands, lift up the bottom edge of the dough and roll it forward into a tight cylinder. Place dough cylinder, seam side down, on a cutting board and, using a thin, sharp knife, trim off the ends; cut cylinder crosswise into 8 equal-size slices. Nestle the slices, cut sides up and evenly spaced from one another, into a buttered 9" x 13" light-colored metal baking pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to let rise for 2 hours. (Alternatively, the rolls may be refrigerated overnight.)

Heat oven to 375°. Uncover the rolls. (If refrigerated, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.) Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the rolls comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Make the icing: While the rolls are baking, whisk together the confectioners sugar, orange juice, and orange zest in a small bowl until smooth.

Transfer the pan of cinnamon rolls to a cooling rack; brush with remaining melted butter. Let cool for 5 minutes. Dip the tines of a fork into the icing and drizzle all over the rolls. Serve immediately.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lime tart

There was a time - come on, you remember it - when the Hostess believed Ina Garten could do no wrong. Then there was the unappealing nature of the remarks regarding her recipe for Eli's Asian Salmon (Ina and Eli don't know asian salmon, yo - was the message). And then my own trip, fall, correct her recipe/ get back up with one of her creations. Knowing what I do now though, common sense and some experience corrected before I blindly ground four limes worth of pith into this lime tart. J'dore lime tart, I don't need an unshod contessa with $10 cake mixes to muck it up for me, or even a freaking princess in Manolo's (hey, Marie Chantal!). If you are following the original recipe be warned: Not enough sugar and you should never, never ever, zest with a vegetable peeler (Blushing Rule #9) and a food processor, unless, that is, you enjoy bitter, angry, mean, desserts. In that case, invite no one and consume solo.

Lime Curd Tart
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Serves 8

Shortbread pastry shell:
3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt

4 limes at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
4 large eggs at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" fluted tart pan with removable bottom.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar together until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Transfer to a board dusted with flour and roll out with a rolling pin to a shape large enough to fill the tart pan. Chill 1 hour.

Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill the foil with pie weights. Bake 20 minutes then remove the foil and pie weights. Prick the bottom of the tart shell all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Remove the zest of 4 limes with a microplane. Squeeze the limes to make 1/2 cup of juice and set the juice aside. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the sugar and process and process until combined. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter with the sugar and lime zest. Add-- the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lime juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2-quart saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 10 minutes. The lime curd will thicken at about 175 degrees F, or just below a simmer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Fill the tart shell with warm lime curd and refridgerate until set: At least 3 hours though more is best. Serve once set with sweetened whipped cream and blueberries.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Bone up

Two fundamental but controversial truths of the Hostess's relationship with pork, and in turn, well... pigs, I suppose:
1. The Hostess does not believe in eating or cooking pork cutlets (Blushing Rule #8). In fact, the Hostess much prefers chewing on shoe leather. She eats chops, as in, pork on the bone. Thick cut or roasts only, because they do not dry out as readily and turn into insoles in 4 minutes or less. The Hostess misses her Grandmother's on the bone Shake n' Bake pork chop dinner, but it would never be the same without her. Indeed, the Hostess has been known to suggest alternate uses for all the cutlets she has crossed. For instance; doormats and residential foundations.
2. The Hostess has long been a proponent of the pork and fruit combination. Believing these two items adore one another deeply (almost as much as Shake n' Bake and chops), and should be allowed to nestle happily together on plates everywhere.

Seared Pork Chops in Dijon Peach Sauce
Serves 2, easily multiplied

2-1/2 pound thick cut center rib bone-in pork chops
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons peach jam
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon thyme, fresh is best (1/2 teaspoon ground)
*Apples sauteed in butter and salted make a lovely garnish.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the meat from refrigeration and allow to stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of both pork chops.

In a wide, ovenproof skillet, heat oil and butter to sizzling and smoking, but not burned. Lay both chops in the pan and cook 2 minutes on the first side until the meat is golden. Turn meat onto other side and repeat searing for 2 minutes until golden brown. Transfer chops to a plate and set aside momentarily.

Hold the skillet off the heat while you add the white wine. With a wooden spoon, scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen the browned bits. Stir, cook for 1 minute. Add peach jam and Dijon mustard to the wine mixture. Cook, stirring vigorously until the mustard and peach jam are evenly incorporated.

Add chops back to skillet and place into the preheated oven. Cook 15 minutes, checking after 10 with a meat thermometer. It is finished when the meat reaches 160 degrees.

Transfer the chops to warmed serving plate(s), spoon Dijon peach sauce over the top.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A pretty tart and the relevent citation

Morning, Friends!

I have something lovely and full of fall inspiration to share with you today, easy peasy with a short cut but also not overwhelming without. I adapted the Pear Almond Tart below from a recipe in this past month's Food and Wine Magazine. I do so hope it brings a little sparkling pear to your autumnal table.

The review of this recipe reminded me of one of those things that can I think can really make or break food bloggers in general: They need to cite their credits. In the blogosphere, there are a lot of information hounds, like myself: Great readers of everything put on paper and blogged in the given subject range in which we are interested. I think it an important quality in bloggers, especially those like myself who have not had the benefit of culinary school and have learned largely from books and magazines, that they try to return credit for adapting recipes from their source. One blogger who I have always found is as honest as the day is long, is Orangette, whose blogging popularity is not at all crippled by the fact that she admits to learning from others.

Recently I noted another remarkably popular food blog which hacked a recipe virtually verbatim from a recent publication (which is okay - you know, whatever) of Gourmet Magazine, but failed to site Gourmet as her resource (totally and completely not okay). You know what happened next surely: That blog is off my reading list.

It's like this: If it ran in an American food publication in the last ten years, I have read it and likely saved it somewhere. It seems to me from the emails I receive that many of you readers have the same commitment to food publications. I don't mind if you use inspiration. Heck, I was fashion design, inspiration (aka knock off's) are the biggest section of the game from mid market to bottom. So, I get it. But you know, I was history major in college and ol' Professor Deasy there at Providence College (God protect him)... Well, he seared correct citation into our souls, not just for accuracy, but because when it is all said and done: For respect of another's hard work.

I thank you for reading with me, and in turn, I will never knowingly try to pull the wool over your eyes regarding who started me down any one of these marvelous paths.

Pear and Almond Tart
adapted from Food and Wine Magazine, Racines
Serves 8

It is really imperative that you taste the pears you are using. They should be flavorful and have a bit of bite but most of all, they should taste like a pear.

Baked pastry shell (yes, you can use a ready made pie crust)
3/4 cup almond flour
1/3 cup slivered almonds
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter plus 2 tablespoons melted, more for greasing tart pan
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 large bosc pears, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom. Place the pastry shell into the tart pan, fit to sides, remove excess from edges, pick shell all over with a fork, cover with tin foil, and weight with pie weights. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, and cool at least 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the almond flour, granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir to combine evenly. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, place the 4 tablespoons softened butter. Beat for 30 seconds. Add the almond mixture and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and almond extracts, beating between each addition.

Spread the almond filling in the pastry shell and spread evenly. Arrange the pear slices in concentric circles, you needn't be too particular about it. Bruch the pear slices evenly and all over with the melted butter. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the top of the tart.

Bake for 1 hour, until the filling is set and the top is golden brown. Transfer the tart to a rack and let cool slightly. Remove the tart ring and serve warm or at room temperture with sweetened whipped cream.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Grandmother's Roast Beef

This is without a doubt my favorite Roast Beef recipe though there is little herein terms of direction. Both my Mother and Grandmother have a way with this recipe, more of a cadence than a method. I have copied it for you exactly as it is written in my Mom's hand when she scribbled it inside the back page of her cook book. It seems to me a crime to alter it in anyway, I can imagine this is exactly as it was quoted to her. That accuracy is important in the life of a family. Not only is this precious to me because it was the one my Grandmother made on Sundays, but also because it proves a gorgeous, tasty roast. Generally, you will need a 3 or 4 pound roast, and it should be very generously crusted with kosher salt and pepper.

She served this with her famous potatoes, which is not yet a recipe I am ready to share though, for the life of me, I do not know why...

Grandma Christine's Roast Beef
Mt. Kisco, New York

Heat oven 450 degrees. Put meat in, cook for 45 minutes. Turn off oven, allow to sit for 2 hours. Do not open the oven. Half an hour before dinner, turn on oven to 350 and cook for 1/2 hour. This will not make drippings for gravy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Domestic Goddess in Training

Morning, all.

The dogs are off giving morning chase to the waskaly wabbits to the end of their invisible tether and somehow that has reminded me, finally, to point out a food blog I so enjoy from the UK, Domestic Goddess in Training. Special mention for her Black Cherry and White Chocolate Creme Brulee - delish! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Sparkling Ruby for the Holiday Table

This mold is so gorgeous for the Thanksgiving table.
Speaks for itself...

Molded Cranberry Relish, Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Recipe

div>Cranberry Ceramic Mold, Williams Sonoma, $20

Friday, September 19, 2008

An Autumn Fondue


1. I have not made this recipe yet. But I want to. However, I am at the moment a woman in flux and therefore cannot settle down for a moment in front of the ol' fondue pot and indulge.

2. I am not in the standard waxy, holy, "Swiss Cheese" fan club. I work with Gruyere and I don't mind it, same goes for Emmenthaler, etc. They do a nice job here and there but I admit they are not on my go-to list. I know this is a failing of mine, not of Swiss cheese makers. One day, when there is more time, I will rise early, go to Murray's Cheese Shop and sample until I understand completely and in turn apply this knowledge to fondue with abandon.

3. Considering point 2, I like a cheddar fondue. Sharp and a little salty, and some cases, like this one, a little sweet too. That's not just what I eat, it's also kind of who I am.

4. I do not care for liquor in food, or food in my liquor. That is also who I am. The addition of applejack in the recipe below is up to you, but I suspect you will be fine without it. I omit booze from everything and have never been sorry. Wine however is a different story, and I only suspect that a dry white wine in this recipe might help to tone the sweetness here.

5. I have not corrected or altered the method below in anyway, though I might in the future.

Now it's all out in the open so it will be no mystery why this recipe I found the other day while flipping through old cookbooks of my Moms sounded both tasty and perfect for a fondue brunch on a nippy fall Sunday. Also, that explains any issues you may find with it until I can kick the tires myself. Happy fall.

Cider Fondue
Makes 12 - 16 servings
From The Gourmet Fondue Cookbook, by Carmel Reingold, 1970

The author advises this recipe is, "absolutely divine with with hot cider or room temperature wine. It is a bit too sweet for cocktails to highballs."

1 1/2 pounds shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups dry cider, divided
1 teaspoons dry mustard
3 tablespoons applejack
Salt and pepper to taste
For serving: 8 crisp eating apples, cored and cut into 1" cubes

"Dredge the cheese with flour. Blend 1/2 cup cider with mustard and heat in Fondue pan with the remaining cider until bubbling, stirring continuously. Add the cheese by handfuls. Cook until melted. Season to taste. Serve hot. Dip apple pieces into mixture."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

For your home

Good morning, Friends,

Today you may be interested to drop in at Blushing Hostess Entertains to get the Low Country low down on some gorgeous scented candles for your home and for the hostesses in your life.

If you have ever wondered how the shelves in fine stores appear so neat and wish to achieve that same orderliness in your own home, find a tool and the secret to perfecting your fold at Blushing Hostess Homekeeping.

I'm afraid its time for goodbye again

This recipe kicks around in one of my binders on a dog-eared index card and is dated 2004. There have been many tomato bread pudding recipes this season but this one has been my favorite, not only because it was my first. As we meet the misty end of another season of tomatoes, I hope you enjoy this parting shot.

Tomato Bread Pudding
8 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds heirloom or garden-fresh tomatoes
1 pound green tomatoes
1 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, divided
10 cups cubed Italian bread, crusts removed
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
8 large eggs
1 cup coarsely grated fontina cheese
1 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 handful torn basil leaves , more to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter a 3-quart shallow baking dish (about 13 by 9 inches).

Toss tomatoes in a bowl with the olive oil, herbes de Provence, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in a large heavy 4-sided sheet pan.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Grease a large casserole.

Whisk together milk, cream, eggs, 1 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir in cheeses. Add bread and allow to sit 1 hour. Just before baking, stir in basil until evenly combined. Transfer to the casserole dish. Bake until firm to the touch and golden brown in spots, 50 to 60 minutes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A season not yet upon us

We are leaving the Northeast the moment we are well so last week my Mom and I took my daughter to our local orchard farm stand. I was ready for it to be fall but the ground and air were not with me. It is too soon to press cider and there is not much ready in the apple orchard yet. When we get back, they will be in full swing though - finally. I can't wait. From the moment Labor Day breezes by, I drive past through the windy country roads that pass through the orchards in our corner of paradise peering up at the trees hoping to see little flashes of reds, pinks, and citrons: A flag to all who pass that the apples are ready.

In the meantime, above is the beginning of the season in northern Westchester; always exciting and a little misty all at once... did you know we had amazing apple orchards? We do, we sho' do.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Care labels explained

Blushing Hostess Homekeeping has a great tool to dymystifying those little white owners manuals on your table and bed linens and garments.

The Hostess Succombs

First, my tiny girl became hideously sick, poor sweet little one, it is agony for her. Then, this happened:

Don't worry, I am probably not dying. But on top of pregnancy, this is just very unpleasant. During my last pregnancy, I was a fit as a fiddle, so this is all new to me. Consequently, I might slow down a little here. Not just because I have been wandering around outside death's door kicking over the mum planters and pulling apart his festive halloween wreaths, but also because I cannot get that little blonde dog off of me. He is just an added torture in this time of sniffling drama and he seems to be everywhere. I swear there are 100 of him.

And then, as soon as we are well we have to go on a long journey to our other place. Be patient with me, okay, pals?

The Negroni Cocktail, Florence, Italy, ca. 1919

I nearly stopped reading Ruhlman today. He referred to a cocktail and Chef Bourdain (an idol of mine) appearing at and event. But the cocktail had a totally unacceptable and inappropriate name at first blush. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, turns out the name is Italian (everything is better in Italian). And the drink, well, I have not made one yet, seeing as how I am preggers and hard liquor is a no-no. I leave it to you to tell me about the Negroni, a drink with intriguing, continental flair... according to, which also gave the recipe below and a number of interesting variations (which I would absolutely have tried while haunting the Hotel Lungarno had I had an inkling I was missing something!), it is an apéritif.

The Negroni Cocktail
1 serving, normally presented in a martini glass

1 part gin
1 part vermouth
1 part bitter (normally Campari)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cloned beef is "theoretically" "possibly" in the food supply?

And now a mention from Yahoo news. It is "theoretically possible" cloned offspring beef has entered the food supply. What do you think about this?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Great Hostess Gift File... For the Cashmere Girl

Need a great hostess gift for the well dressed girl with everything? Visit Blushing Hostess Homekeeping to be introduced to a great product for the cashmere clad hostess...

Sneaky and unapologetic

Before I had a picky eater for a child, I read the occasional recipe aimed at sneaking nutrients, fiber, and/ or calcium into children. I have also read an opinion here or there regarding the fact that including nutrient rich items in otherwise unremarkable foods (mac n' cheese, for one) is either dishonest or irresponsible, since it does not teach the child to choose healthy foods.

In these parts, we have one very particular eater whose entire diet, if she was allowed ot have it her way, would consist of mac n' cheese, avocados, chocolate, and vanilla ice cream. This came as a complete surprise because she was an easily pleased broad spectrum eater at the beginning of her food life. A year later, I don't care that forcing nurtients into otherwise useless foods is not popular with some mothers. The child needs to eat, and eat well. One day she will discover she has liked whole grains, yogurt, and veggies all along. In the meantime, if she chooses to beleive she is not consuming flax seed, that is her perogative and I choose to respect it.

Here is my precious girl's sweet treat for today: Zucchini blondies featuring olive oil (holy cow -an omega 3!) whole wheat flour, veg, pecans, dark chocoate (wait, what's that - an antioxident?), and cranberries (hello, fiber, fiber, and more fiber!). And as I side note, even if I were not a sneaky pie Hostess and Mother, I would still think these were delish!

Good Stuff Zucchini Blondies
Makes 24 bar cookies

Canola spray or butter for greasing pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup extra virgin, cold pressed, olive oil
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 cup grated unpeeled zucchini
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chopped dried sweetened cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a jelly roll pan or a large casserole.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Combine the egg, milk, and vanilla in another bowl. Cream the butter in the mixer. Add the olive oil and mix to combine. Add the sugars and continue to cream the mixture until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg mixture. Beat until well combined. Add the flour mixture, mix for 30 seconds and then scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again until thoroughly combined. Stir in the grated zucchini, chocolate chips, pecans, and cranberries and mix again gently until just evenly combined.

Smooth the batter onto the greased jelly roll sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, checking the bars after 10 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet if browning is uneven. Cool completely before cutting. Serve or store in an airtight container.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bits and Bridles

No, it is not a post about my favorite Hermes scarf or saddle... ugh! Don't encourage me, I need to stay on message(tell ya later, k?). No indeed! It is much deeper, thoughtful subject: A post on the centerpieces at the Hampton Classic over at Blushing Hostess Entertains. Tally ho, ya'll.

Oh, okay... This seasons scarf.... roar! And the saddle, has not changed much since I first threw my right leg over, nonetheless, I will never get over Hermes, but, I digress... on to the centerpieces!

Tomato Bread Soup

As a nip arrives in the air, I think of hearty end of summer tomato soups, versions of which are plentiful in Tuscany at this time of year. This is one of our favorites. It is a meal in itself and lovely with a big Tuscan red.

Tomato Bread Soup
6 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 2" or larger chunk of parmigiano-reggiano rind
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 quart homemade chicken stock or water
2 cups stale bread, in smaller cubes
Handful of torn basil leaves
Grated Parmigiano-reggiano for garnish

In a large soup pot, place olive oil and onions. Sweat over medium low heat until translucent. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes, crushing them through your fingers as they fall into the pot. Add bay leaves, salt, pepper, and cheese rind. Cook until heated through.

About 10 minutes.

Turn heat up to medium. Add chicken stock or water and allow to boil vigorously for five minutes, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Turn heat to low once again and add the stale bread cubes. Stir until all bread cubes are coated and allow to cook five minutes more. Remove the pot from the heat. Place the lid on the soup pot and allow to sit off the heat for the ten minutes, stirring a couple of times during the rest to be sure the bread is saturating and entirely softened.

Just before serving, add the basil and stir to combine. Remove the bay leaves and cheese rind before serving. Serve in soup bowls, well garnished with Parmigiano-reggiano grated over the top of each bowl with a microplane.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Waxing nostalgic and new with The Hostess

Bedford, New York and Ralph Lauren, Bedford Manor Collection considered today in "Bedford", kinda at Blushing Hostess Entertains Blog.

New York Botanical Garden Fall and Spring Classes

One very exciting piece of mail arrived this week: The New York Botanical Garden Course Catalog for Fall! There is all manner of fascinating courses available both at the NYBG in the Bronx and at several other locations in the metro area including Bard College, Nature Center in New Caanan, Connecticut, Stone Barns at Pocantico Hills, and Westchester Community College. Classes are held day and night, morning and afternoon, weekdays and weekends. No excuses! Get arranging and gardening and never again pay cut flower retail or a landscape designer. You can and should do this yourself for entertaining and for the sheer pleasure of the work and the view!

Check out the entire offering here. Keep in mind, the NYBG is not only a place of vast educational opportunities in both continuing education but also certificate course work in Landscape or Floral Design among several other areas. It is a magical place to visit any time, especially if you are planning a trip to New York; Not to be missed during the holiday season (if you are wondering what is in bloom during your trip, call 718.362.9561 and enter 403#.) It is a wonderful cause (Give lots of money! Go to go to parties! Be photog'd for the New York Times social pages! Er, I mean, support the Garden! Get to go to a lot of lectures! Make new dirt-loving friends like The Blushing Hostess!).

Here is a list (only a small fraction of the total offering) which I am considering, I hope to see you there!

Herbs and Herb Gardens
Essential Floral Arranging
Basic Centerpieces
Landscape Design
Greenhouse Management
Hydrangea Happenings
Summer and Fall Perennials
Dazzling Bulk Plantings
Italian Gardens
Nostalgic Spa Products

Artisans be advised: There are extensive offerings in drawing, painting, and creating as well.

Getting dressed today?

If you are, you should not miss this post at An Aesthete's Lament.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A good save

Fall has arrived here in the northeast. On this cool, sunny day as the first of the downed leaves swirl at my feet it seemed perfect to have something rich, warm, and soothing to eat. But before I could be soothed, I needed to learn something, evidently.

Today I learned that inital attempts at things that seem like fabu ideas (like rich, warm, soothing food) from the (questionable) genius that is my thought pool do not always pan out so successful as to cause me to put a sign on the front lawn which reads: Fabu, Soothing, Rich food has been made right here! This day has also helped me to correct my own misguided notion that Ina Garten could do no wrong in writing a recipe. I would have known sooner, only I have never made nor read the comments for her recipe for Asian Salmon. Had I, I would have been armed with more sketicism, ah, and a bit less salt, it seems. What's a day without toppling one of my pedastal dwelling idols, aye?

So, you see, I was flipping through House Beautiful magazine and there was Barefoot Contessa's recipe for a broiled artichoke and tomato dish. Now, possibly you are thinking I should not take inspiration from periodicals for whom cuisine is a distant afterthought and where upholstering the heck our of the French chair craze is at the front of their editorial consciousness. I am willing to take my lumps when it comes to disappointing recipes, however. Let's face it, Bon Appetit has not tried its hand at upholstery but maybe it should, it suffers a fair share of poor recipes in my wiltingly humble judgement.

Anywho, I figured, it couldn't hurt to try the House Beautiful recipe. And while it did not so much hurt, I certainly would not say it helped with tasty nourishment.

While the Contessa contends artichokes are too hard to handle fresh and taste lovely roasted, they do not retain as much flavor as she leads you to believe. They take some doctoring dealt with and prepared in this fashion (more than she deemed necessary), and the help of tasty tomatoes; just the sort one can find at this time of year. But if one spends an extra moment dabbling in the cabinet, they will have an outstanding roasted vegetable dish which is spectacular on top of the Gorganzola Bread recipe of a few days ago! Such a relief it was not all for naught. Rich, soothing, and fabu, just as I hoped and now on to your table. Break out the last bottle of Rose in the fridge, our glorious season is closing.

Roasted Artichokes and Tomatoes on Gorgonzola Bread
Serves 8

As a side dish for beef, this is lovely though when it is not served with something as strong as Gorgonzola, it will be best to use fresh artichokes. While the oven is very hot and usually olive oil has too low a smoke point for this heat, the frozen artichoke and tomato will release enough moisture to prevent scorching.

The roasted vegetable dish will also be lovely with or atop garlic or basil bread. With a light soup, and a bit of Rose, this would make a fabulous lunch!

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound (16 ounces) frozen artichoke hearts
1/2 pound (1 large) heirloom tomato, seeded and cut in thin wedges
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme, preferably fresh
1/2 teaspoon marjoram, dried
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium size ovenproof baking dish, swirl olive oil around the bottom until it spreads out a bit. Add artichokes and tomatoes. Sprinkle on the remaining ingredients and toss all together to coat. Place in oven and bake 20 minutes or until artichokes are cooked through and tomatoes have softened and skin wrinkled.

Allow to cool five minutes. Taste and readjust seasonings if needed. Serve with a slotted spoon, liquid allowed to gently drain from the solids, atop Blushing Hostess Gorgonzola Bread.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Nautical wind

Sleepy. So sleepy. Barely time, before I nod off to remind myself of one of my favorite restaurants on earth sometimes for no other reason than the snug shoulder-to-shoulderness of the refined, sailing-inspired dining room. And sometimes because the food really has moments of blazing glory. While I have for years take umbrage at Zelda's Chicken Fried Lobster and wanted to leap upon the chef and wrestle him to the floor finally preventing him from thick-coating another giant sweet crustacean, I was so enchanted with the honey glazed salmon and Gorgonzola bread that I was driven to recreate them for my easy, missing-Newport repertoire. I must not have been the only one taken with the Gorgonzola Bread appetizer because my Brother, Chris, and his new wife, Amy served it at their rehearsal dinner, held at Zelda's, last summer.

This recipe is creamy, messy, and a delicious snazzy snack at all hours of the day and night... on a J boat, or anywhere else good food is appreciated.

Gorgonzola Bread
as I suspect it is made at Cafe Zelda in Newport, Rhode Island
Serves 8

This is a great appetizer, most easily served at the table. If you are having a cocktail party, it can be a little messy, best to spread it generously but neatly on grilled or toasted baguette slices. If you are having a top notch occasion then, top it with a beautiful slice of rare filet Mignon or tenderloin. Best to make this easy sauce just before serving.

Grill or toast the bread on one side only. Leaving one side soft allows the bread to give a bit of crunch while still remaining soft enough on the other side to accept the Gorgonzola sauce. Texture is as important to this recipe as flavor.

To increase the number served or simply if you like a bit more sauce, just increase the cheese and cream in equal amounts.

It is imperative that you allow the cheese and heavy cream to heat slowly. Patience will be rewarded, haste will invariably cause scorching.

1 large baguette loaf, slice in 3/4" wide slices
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 cup heavy cream
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced

With a pastry brush, apply a light coat of olive oil to the bread slices and either toast gently over a low grill or place on a baking sheet under a low broil for mere seconds until golden and toasted. Do not grill or toast on the opposite side. Place these on the serving platter.

In a saucepan over low heat combine the cream and Gorgonzola. Heat slowly, stirring occasionally until the Gorgonzola is melted an sauce is mostly smooth except for the blue chunks. Depending on pan and stove, this can take ten or fifteen minutes. Pour this cheese sauce over the top of all the bread slices. Sprinkle diced tomato over the platter. Serve immediately.

Hip! Hip!... Finish my thought for me?

Afternoon, faithful pals!

I have dropped in only for half a mo' to announce to you (hold please, I am twirling and dancing while typing... ahem, yes, anyhow) that Blushing Hostess will be featured at one of my fave cooking community sites, (hold: Yippee!... ahem, now then...) Key Ingredient and related blog, Back Burner. Yeeeeee - hah, I love it when a plan comes together.

Now, if only we can get some more comments rolling here so I can give away prizes, we will be all set. A-HEM, folks.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A British breakfast

I was flipping through British Country Living Magazine this morning for the first time. Did you know there was a UK edition? News to me. I enjoyed it and not just because I adored the British cottage in the movie, The Holiday. Foriegn design magazines were part of my livilihood in fashion, now I read them as part of a lively life. I will cross hill and dale to get a copy of British or Italian Vogue, Cote de Sud or it's ilk: Masion, Oest, and Paris among others. And certainly, there are other photographic beauties from our own shores which do not get enough credit for their work, like Claire Murray's La Vie Claire. These are dazzlingly well done examples of photo-centric publications. The images in the French Cote d' Sud Magazines are so hauntingly glorious some have remained in my memory for years.

If you are not yet a reader of these publications because they are not easily accessed or because the expense of subscriptions or buying them (from the back top shelf at Barnes and Noble) can be remarkably costly, they are available to you for basic perusing on the websites above. If you feel you will have a hard time sorting through magazines written in other languages, then for a while it might be best to stick to the astounding photographs. In time, more of the verbage will make sense than one may have assumed. Look it over - don't many of those words seems familiar and relativly easy to understand?

Anyway, I digress. I have actually appeared before you this morning to mention my great love for several pieces of the British breakfast service I have thought quite highly of since I was the ripe age of ten and fortunate enough to accompany my Mother (Mum) and my British Granddad (not to mention my Irish Grandmother and my smart remarking nine-year-old Brother, but that is a story for another day) to England for a visit to London and then Hartlepool, where my Grandfather began his long and marvelous journey through life. My flip through British Country Living reminded me how exquisite and, at the same time, simple, the British breakfast table can be.

During that trip we stayed at several old inns and B&B's. Nevermind that for reasons far beyond me, all food tasted better in the dining rooms of these dusty estabilshments and in the homes of real people than anywhere else on either British Isle: The way food was served at breakfast was a mite more gracious than home. Later, I would see an occasional breakfast served at this level again, but only in fine hotels in London. In fact, my vistis to Conde Nast's "Most Impressive and Ridiculous Hotels" or whatever they call it, never truly touched the thought-through pretty tables of old fashioned little inns in the British Isles. Once in a while, there is a flash of brilliance far from British shores at a Ritz or Four Seasons or something, but they never have the same luster as the real thing for all their trying.

When I think of items that make a breakfast table special, they are not enormous honking sterling tea and coffee services - but, by all means, if you can, do! But smaller, more utilitarian items that were battered, probably handed down, and certainly well used truly made the tables novel to us wee Americans and memorable to all who rarely saw these fine objects:

Sugar tongs : Yes, sugar is still available in thoughtful neat cubes at the supermarket. These glorious tongs are hallmarked vintage British sterling and cost a fortune, but here is a lovely (albeit a little light in the hand), pair which will set you back only $2.95.

Honey jar: Here is fine example. I will tell you that I have searched high and low for one that satisfied me and come up empty. This one is the closest so far. Not even a recent Martha Stewart Living piece highlighting honey jars in the June, 2008 issue proved to yield one that would do. The hunt continues and I am still young.

Jam caddy: Here.

Toast rack: A sweet and easy version can be found Sur la Table. But the best can be found in the Estate Silver Collection at Michael C. Fina or sterling antiquies dealers everywhere.

Individual butter dishes: Now you'll really need that butler's pantry.

Transferware: Which has a club of collectors, devotees, and a resource for buying these s or pieces called, fittingly, Transferware Collectors Club.

Biscuit box: Now, for this item, you will really need an antiquitues dealer to help you locate a good one, in larger dealers there will be many on display in sterling. But be forewarned, the mediocre silver items will run between $500 - $1000. And the old glass pieces will begin at $200. I have been wholly unsuccessful at finding producers currently making biscuit boxes which are as attractive on a table as the antique pieces, like this.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A gentle breeze from the tropics as fall approaches

I promised to give you this easy brunch champagne cocktail which we enjoyed at our Labor Day celebration, to call your own. If you expect both drinkers and tee-totalers, you can mix the fruit juices in a pitcher and set it next to your glasses on a try. Offer champagne, seltzer, and ginger ale as mixers. While I prefer the former, I have had many repeat takers on the non-alcoholic cocktail versions and covering the non-drinking guests will be most considerate; no one will be left out of your festive toast! And frankly, what good is a festive toast if everyone cannot feel festive?

Since this cocktail is sparkling, wait until service time to open the champagne or non-alcoholic mixers in order to preserve their effervescence.

Tropical Champagne Cocktail
8 cocktails

You will locate mango nectar easily either in the ethnic food section of your market near the Latin ingredients or in broad liquor stores which carry all the usual cocktail mixing suspects.

1 lime, sliced into 8 thin pieces and slit from rind to center for glass edge garnish

1 12 ounce can mango nectar
2 cups orange juice without pulp
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, strained

1 bottle champagne (along side have ready seltzer or ginger ale for non-drinkers)

Place champagne flutes on a lined tray where you wish to serve or offer this cocktail. Place a lime slice on the edge of each glass for garnish.

In a pitcher, combine themango nectar, and orange and lime juices. Stir gently for thirty turns to be sure they are well combined. Leave your pretty stirring spoon in the pitcher when placed on the bar or table as the mango nectar sometimes causes the mixture to need to be re-stirred.

To serve, pour the champagne or mixer of choice into a flute until it is 2/3 rd's full. Then fill the glass with the juice mixture from the pitcher. No need to stir, champagne is a natural mingler.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Not ready to let go

In this glorious little town in which we live, so close to New York City, and still a rural gentleman-horse farm community, there is a farm stand and small nursery called The Country Farmer. Fitting. Were one unaware of the season and the bounty each yields, we would know by the puns forever posted on the front fence of the stand. I know we're seeing the last winks of summer when when the sign "Got your ears on?" appears in reference to the silver queen corn's arrival. And I know the time has come to let go of this glorious season when I see, "Mums the word." As I did this past week. We always say those guys have a million of 'em.

This is also the season of my Mother's birthday. This year, I went to the store and bought an SUV full of kale, asters, and mums in a riot of color and transplanted the entire mass into her planters at four corners of her deck overlooking the hills as her birthday gift. The arrival of these floral denizens of fall can give you a long slow pause while you make one last plea for the ability to turn back the calendar.

But powerless to do anything but make way for the fiery brilliance of our northeastern fall, our family made way for festive good byes and one important hello: Late last Sunday night we welcomed a new nephew. He is a tiny amazing miracle. We have been blessed enough to spend two evenings this week with the newly expanded family and their first child. We also joined them for their fabulous and huge neighborhood block party yesterday which was truly well done with every last detail considered. And finally, we had two opportunities to celebrate our Mother's birthday: Friday evening supper and Labor Day brunch today. It is not an exaggeration to say we have potentially eaten as much and as often as any of our Christmas ski holidays (food fests which last four days occasionally briefly interrupted by shopping or skiing).

While I cannot hope to accurately recount for you the variety of wonderful things we have come across in these last few days, I can tell you about brunch today, for which I was responsible. We truly enjoyed this menu and it proved to be very low maintenance; it was my goal to ease up on the labor intensive food for once and see my family before all the teachers begin school again tomorrow. While I do not normally advocate anything pre-made, these items were top notch and made the last day of summer slide by easily. You can order directly from Legals and have their award winning chowder shipped over night to you for immediate use or to place in your freezer for a party-saving moment.

While I use a recipe of Alton Brown's (link below) for the mussels, recipes for the cocktails and orange glazed cupcakes will be available here at Blushing Hostess this week. Happiest and fireiest of fall seasons to you!

Mussels Moulies and the pot sauces in small cups for each guest.

Labor Day Summer Close Brunch Menu
Serves 8

Tropical Champagne Cocktail

Legals Seafood Clam Chowder and Oyster Crackers

Mussels Moulies
Pomme Frite (aka Ore Ida's new Extra Crispy Fries, delish!)
Garlic Bread

Orange Glazed Butter Cupcakes

The end of champagne cocktail tray and the end of our all-too-short summer of 2008.