Recipe Testing for Lara Ferroni

November 30, 2011 § 4 Comments

If cooking a Thanksgiving feast wasn’t enough, I’ve been busy in the kitchen for the past few days testing recipes for the amazing cookbook author and food photographer, Lara Ferroni. I’m certainly not complaining though!  It’s been really fun and I’m excited to tell you all about it.

If you’re not familiar with Lara she’s an extremely talented food photographer and accomplished cookbook author.  She’s now working on her next cookbook that features delicious sweet and salty treats but without all the junk (ie ingredients you can’t pronounce). Definitely my style of cooking!  Lara asked me to test recipes for her peanut butter stuffed pretzel balls and chocolate caramel cookie sticks. Considering I’m both a peanut butter and caramel addict, I was thrilled I got to try these recipes.

Unfortunately I’m only here to tempt you with Lara’s yummy treats- the recipes can’t be released quite yet.  But what I can tell you is that you should most definitely snag this cookbook once it’s available next fall! From these two recipes alone I know her book will secure a spot on my cookbook shelf.  Thanks for allowing me to help, Lara!

A Pick Me Up

November 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

Yesterday was gorgeous but today it is full on gray and rainy in NYC. However, things are a bit brighter in our apartment thanks to Brandon’s birthday! As you can tell, November is a big month for birthdays around here. Since Brandon leaves for a work trip today, we celebrated last night with a lobster roll feast followed by extra fancy beers and wine. I definitely need to eat lobster more often on Monday nights.

To bring a little brightness to your day, I wanted to share a video of a trip we took last fall to Spain and Morocco. Brandon made this video and it never fails to put me in a good mood! Thanks for always making me smile, Brandon, I hope you have a wonderful birthday! xoxo

Sweet and Salty Brownies

November 28, 2011 § 8 Comments

Hello! And happy Monday. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Ours was great. My mom and I started cooking on Tuesday and pretty much worked straight through til’ Thursday. I love the tradition of cooking together and each year it gets better and better with new dishes and more strategic planning!

Since you’re all probably very tired of eating or hearing about pumpkin pie, I decided to share our “other” Thanksgiving dessert with you today.  We always have a second dessert to accompany the pumpkin pie. In my mind, chocolate pairs best with pumpkin so I was in need of a decadent chocolate dessert.

I don’t read a lot of food magazines, but I do read a lot of food blogs. So when a picture of a dish gets seared in my memory, it’s usually from one of my favorite blogs. I had this image in my head of a sweet and salty brownie from Dana’s blog (Dana Treat) from months ago. I couldn’t even place when I read it, but I could still recall the description of this amazing brownie and knew instantly that’s what we needed to make.

This is not your typical brownie. You may have guessed that from the title but what I didn’t tell you is that this brownie also includes a thin layer of fleur de sel caramel melted into the center making it the most incredible brownie I’ve ever tasted.  If you are a fudgey brownie lover, you will die and go to brownie heaven. Words can’t do justice to how good this baked good is, so you should probably just make it.

Sweet and Salty Brownies from Baked Explorations/ Dana Treat

When trying a new baked good, I always follow the recipe exactly. So that’s what I did in this situation.  Instead of rewriting the entire recipe I urge you to head over the Dana’s blog to not only read about these brownies but to check out all the other amazing recipes she has.  I’ll admit, this is not the simplest of brownie recipes, so I’ve listed a few tips based on my experience. Don’t be deterred those, these are well worth the effort!

  • When stirring the sour cream into the caramel, be sure to use a whisk so it doesn’t clump.
  • Before stirring the eggs into the chocolate, make sure the chocolate is truly room temp.
  • When stirring the flour into the chocolate the mixture will feel clumpy- that’s ok, keep going.
  • I found it difficult to keep the caramel from spreading to the sides of the pan.  The original recipe mentioned this would cause it to burn, but I didn’t experience that.
  • These are great made a day ahead, which makes them perfect for entertaining!  Let them cool completely, then store in the fridge if serving the next day.  If they’re cold, they’re much easier to cut.  Cut them and then let them come to room temp before serving.

Thanksgiving: Decorating the Table

November 23, 2011 § 1 Comment

When it comes to Thanksgiving I like a simple table with natural elements.  I headed to the fabric store last night to pick up some pieces to pull our table together. I knew we would be using green plates and white cloth napkins, so I wanted something clean yet festive to complement those colors. I chose a few yards of a muted green burlap to serve as the main runner, and then grabbed a roll of gold tulle to lay on top of the burlap for some sparkle and warmth.  Then, down the center of the table, I’m placing miniature pumpkins with a few branches of red berries tucked underneath.

I’m so pleased with the results. And the best part?  It cost me less than fifteen dollars. The only thing I paid for was the fabric and pumpkins (the berries I cut from our yard).  This is proof you don’t need to spend a fortune! So when designing your table, first see what have around your house (both inside and out), then choose a simple color palette, and round out your plan with a few store bought elements.

There’s much cooking to be done so I’m off to the kitchen. I hope you all have a delicious Thanksgiving! Happy eating!

Mashed Potatoes: This Year’s Secret Ingredient

November 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

Well maybe it’s not so secret, and I really can’t take credit for it, but I can tell you it’s really really good. This year I’m putting cream cheese in our Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.  Yep, cream cheese!

Do you guys cook with cream cheese?  I’m a little bit obsessed with it.  Yes I love it on bagels but I find when I have some around, it’s always useful in whatever I’m cooking, whether I’m thickening a sauce or making a dish a little bit more indulgent. And in mashed potatoes it is unbelievable.  We can’t credit this one to Ina, it’s full on Pioneer Woman. I haven’t talked  much about Ree Drummond here but I’ve always liked her recipes, and I think she’s a solid go to when it comes to fool proof comfort food. I made a variation of these mashed potatoes a few weeks back and shortly after I told my mom we had to have them at Thanksgiving!  I can’t wait to top them with gravy and cranberry sauce.

I modified the recipe a little bit by cutting back on the butter.  I know, I know, me of all people! I really do love butter,  but the amount used was even a bit too indulgent for my tastes.  It is Thanksgiving though, so feel free to go all out! Either variation is sure to be delicious.  Oh, and the best part?  You can make it a day ahead! You can never have too many make ahead dishes on Thanksgiving.

I’ll be back a little later tomorrow with some super simple tablescape ideas that I’m very excited to share. And, in case you need it- here’s a stellar sweet potato recipe. Happy holiday prepping!

Creamy Mashed Potatoes slightly adapted from the Pioneer Woman
Serves 10

  • 5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream Cheese, Softened
  • 1/2 cup (to 3/4 cups) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add the butter, cream cheese, and milk. Mash until very smooth with a potato masher. Next, add salt a pepper. Taste for seasoning and add a bit more if necessary (do not under salt!).

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish or oven proof bowl.  Place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until potatoes are warmed through (15-20 minutes).

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Photo Credit

Tuna Tartines with Hummus

November 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

A few weeks back, Brandon was placing an Amazon order. It was one of those random orders- a new shower curtain, a cable for his computer, and some tea. After placing the order he came into our bedroom to say we were all set, but mentioned he had added something else to the order. Tuna. When I asked how much tuna he had ordered, he sheepishly replied “I think… twenty four cans.”

Needless to say, Brandon is of the buy in bulk mentality.  Me- not so much, which is why he chose to tell me of his purchase after he had clicked submit. I laughed because I knew he was right. I would have never have agreed to that! I like tuna but twenty four cans? I don’t like it that much and the idea of having that much of it on hand makes me like it even less!

Even though I say I’m against it, I’m such a hypocrite when it comes to buying in bulk. I’ll resist and resist and then we’ll buy a huge quantity of something and I get used to having it around forever. Then it’s ok- it’s been accepted into the group of things we can buy in bulk and I’m totally into it. Toilet paper? Yes. Dishwasher soap? Fine. Ten pounds of rolled oats? Let’s do it (I make granola every week).  But I was so not ready for the tuna. Until I tried this recipe.

I vaguely remembered an interesting recipe for tuna sandwiches in my Ina cookbook “How Easy Is That?”.  So when the tuna arrived, I looked to that. I’ll admit, this is one of those recipes that has somewhat of an annoying ingredient list.  Ironically enough we had most of the ingredients on hand, and after making it I can tell it truly is worth the effort to purchase all the ingredients (I’ll definitely be making this again). I know many people don’t like tuna fish, but if you do like it- you will love this. Even if you only like it a little, I think you’ll be surprised. Oh, and I’m calling them tartines because they’re open face sandwiches and, well,  it sounds cuter!

Tuna and Hummus Tartines adapted slightly from the Barefoot Contessa “How Easy is That?”
Makes 6 sandwiches

  • 14 ounces jarred or canned Italian tuna in olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced scallions
  • 3 tablespoons minced cornichons
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons good mayo
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 slices hearty whole wheat bread
  • hummus, store-bought or homemade (recipe follows)
  • Fresh carrots or radishes, sliced
  • 2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved (15.5-ounce can)
  • 1/3 cup tahini or sesame paste
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Drain the oil from the tuna, reserving the oil. Place the tuna in a mixing bowl and flake it with a fork. Add the celery, onion, cornichons, lemon juice, mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of the reserved oil, the mustard, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Toast the bread and spread each slice with a layer of hummus. Spread the tuna salad on each piece of bread, garnish with slices of radish, and serve immediately.

For the Hummus: Place the chickpeas, 2 tablespoons of the reserved liquid, the tahini, garlic, lemon juice, hot sauce, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until coarsely pureed. The hummus should be moist and thick; add more lemon juice or reserved chickpea liquid to thin, if necessary. Cover and refrigerate for several hours for the flavors to blend. Taste for seasonings. Yield: 2 cups.

Weeknight Simplicity: Winter Squash Soup

November 18, 2011 § 4 Comments

Oh my God is this good. I know that’s exactly what Ina says, but the statement couldn’t be more true when it comes to this soup. You will be blown away on so many levels.  First, I would have never thought to categorize this as a simple weeknight meal until I learned how easy it is to peel a butternut squash with a vegetable peeler (why was I ever going at that thing with a knife?).  You could take it a step further and just purchase pre-cut squash.  Second, who knew adding pureed pumpkin to butternut squash soup would make such a difference? We were totally totally shocked, but now are oh so addicted. It’s officially my new favorite fall soup, fall dish, fall weeknight meal- fall everything.  Do yourself a favor and double the recipe.  It freezes really well, but I have a feeling you’ll be polishing off the pot in no time!

Have a great weekend!

Winter Squash Soup slightly adapted from Barefoot Contessa in Paris
Serves 4

  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (1 large 2 small onions)
  • 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 lbs butternut squash peeled and cut into chunks
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup half and half or 1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy bottom stockpot, add the onions and cook over medium low heat for 12-15 minutes, or until translucent. Add the pumpkin puree, butternut squash, chicken stock, salt, and pepper.  Cover and simmer over medium low heat for about 20 minutes, until the squash is very tender (pierced easily with a fork). Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until it’s very smooth.  Once blended add the half and half or heavy cream and heat slowly.  Serve with a toasted baguette or croutons. The crouton you see in my photo is sliced baguette that’s been toasted under the broiler and then brushed with a little melted butter.  They’re dangerous but delicious.

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