Saturday, December 26, 2015

CHRISTMAS ON THE ISLAND


Victorian table Christmas tree in my sun room, which is now a 'snow room'.


Country Christmas tree cut from our property.


My little kitchen Christmas tree.


Christmas Eve with our daughter


Christmas Eve with my husband

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE, PISTACHIO, & DRIED CHERRY BISCOTTI


In America, twice baked cookies are known as biscotti. The word biscotti comes from the Latin word biscoctus, meaning twice baked or cooked. Biscotti made with a fat, such as butter or oil, will have a softer texture and shorter shelf life. These are made without butter or oil. In Italy biscotti are called cantucci or cantuccini. 



3 large eggs
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
2 t (10 ml) vanilla extract
¾ cup (175 ml) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T (15 ml) instant espresso powder
2 ½ cups (625 ml) all-purpose flour
1 t (5 ml) baking powder
½ t (2 ml) baking soda
¼ (1 ml) t salt
1 cup (250 ml) shelled, unsalted pistachios
1 cup (250 ml) dried cherries
1 cup (250 ml) dark chocolate (preferably 70% cacao), chopped

 Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) degrees.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, espresso powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixer, while it is running.
With a wooden spoon, gently stir in the chopped chocolate, dried cherries, and pistachios

Shape dough with lightly floured hands into 2 logs of 8 by 3 inches (20 x 7.5 cm). 
Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 20 minutes. 
Slice into ½ inch (12 mm) slices and lay on sides. 

Reduce oven to 300 F (150 C) degrees and bake for 12 minutes. 
Carefully flip them over and bake another 12 minutes.

Cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container.






Saturday, November 28, 2015

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP


Cool evenings are perfect for this wild mushroom soup. The addition of Marsala wine adds a wonderful flavor to the soup. Marsala wine is a fortified wine named for the city in Sicily. This can be served as a first course in smaller bowls or as a main entree with a salad or panino. 
Zuppa di funghi.


0.5 oz dried porcini mushrooms
0.5 oz dried portabella mushrooms
3 T extra-light olive oil or grape seed oil
3 T unsalted butter
1 lb wild mixed mushrooms (oyster, chanterelle, cremini) wiped clean and sliced
2 cipollini onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 shallots, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T flour
2 t finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 t dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Marsala wine
2 quarts chicken stock or broth
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Italian bread, sliced and grilled or fried with a little extra-light olive oil
White truffle oil, for drizzling (optional)

Place the dried porcini and portabella mushrooms in a bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover; set aside.
Heat the oil and butter in a large soup pot over medium high heat.
Add the mushrooms and cook until golden and their liquid has evaporate, about 20 minutes.
Remove the porcini mushrooms from the liquid, chop, and add to the pot. Save the liquid.
Add the cipollini onions and shallots and sauté another 10 minutes.
Add garlic and sauté another minute.
Sprinkle flour into pot and cook, while constantly stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the thyme and bay leaves.

Add the wine to the pot and stir with a wooden spoon.

Strain the porcini and portabella liquid through a fine mesh strainer and add to the pot.
Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Before serving, remove bay leaves and stir in the chopped parsley.

Ladle into soup bowls, add a slice or two of the Italian bread, sprinkle with grated cheese and a little drizzle of truffle oil, if desire.

Serves 4


Monday, November 23, 2015

PORCHETTA-STYLE PORK ROAST

Sunday is the perfect day for a roast pork, especially an autumn Sunday. The pork roasting in your oven will fill the house with an incredible aroma. I served it with twice baked potatoes and Harvest Escalloped Apples, recipe follows.



1 (4 to 4 ½ lb/2 to 2.25 kg) boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt)
2 T (30 ml) fennel seeds
1 T (15 ml) sea salt
2 t (10 ml) black peppercorns
1 t (5 ml) red pepper flakes
2 T (30 ml) fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
4 large cloves garlic
2 T (30 ml) extra-light olive oil
1 cup (250 ml) Marsala or white wine
½ cup (125 ml) chicken broth or stock

Pat pork dry with paper towels and place in a cast-iron skillet or heavy roasting pan.

Place fennel seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium-high heat until slightly darker in color and fragrant (about 3 to 4 minutes).
Remove from heat and let cool.
When cool, pour into a spice grinder along with salt, peppercorns, and red pepper flakes.
Grind to a medium coarseness.
Place in a small bowl and add the chopped rosemary.

Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C) degrees.

Cut each clove of garlic into 4 slivers.

Using a small paring knife, make 16 holes in the roast.
Place a sliver of garlic into each.
Rub entire surface of pork with olive oil and then spread the spice mixture over the surface.

Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes
Turn down oven temperature to 300 F (150 C) and roast for another  2 to 2½ hours, or until an instant read thermometer registers 150 F (66 C).

Transfer pork to a cutting board to rest while making the sauce.

Place skillet or roasting pan on the stove.
Add the wine and chicken stock.
Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until wine mixture is reduced to about 1 cup.
Pour sauce through a mesh strainer into a bowl or gravy boat.

Carve pork into ½ inch thick slices and pour a little of the sauce over.


Serves 4 

Harvest Escalloped Apples
3 Granny Smith or Jonathan apples, peeled, sliced, and slices cut in half
2 T (30 ml) unsalted butter
3 T (45 ml) brown sugar
1 T (15 ml) granulated sugar
1 t (5 ml) ground cinnamon
½ t (2 ml) ground ginger
¼ t (1 ml) ground nutmeg
1 t (5 ml) fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
1¼ cups (310 ml) apple juice


1 T (15 ml) cornstarch
2 T (30 ml) water

In a large skillet, add the apples, butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, lemon juice, salt, and apple juice.

Cook over medium heat until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Mix the cornstarch with water and add to the pan with the apples.
Cook until thickened.



Sunday, November 15, 2015

PEAR TART

Mascarpone is a creamy Italian cheese made from cow’s milk. The cows are fed special grasses filled with herbs and flowers so they produce milk that is perfect for making this cheese. Mascarpone cheese can be found in grocery stores in 8-ounce (250-ml) containers.
Crostata di Pere.


1 ¼ cups (310 ml) pastry or all-purpose flour
¼ cup (60 ml) granulated sugar
1 t (5 ml) finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt
4 T (60 ml) cold unsalted butter (½ stick), cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
¼ cup (60 ml) cold cream or half-and-half (half cream)

Place the flour, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine.
Add the butter and pulse a few more seconds.
In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk and cream until combined.
With the motor running, pour the egg yolk mixture down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough comes together.

Turn out onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Wrap up, flattening and forming the dough into a disc. Chill for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C) degrees.

Lightly dust your work surface with flour and roll the pastry out to fit a 9-inch (23-cm), removable-bottom tart pan. Press the dough carefully up the sides, then roll off overhang with your rolling pin and remove.
Cut a round piece of parchment paper, to fit in the bottom and up the sides of the dough. Place over the dough and add about 2 cups (500 ml) pie weights or dried beans on top of the parchment paper. 
Bake the crust for 20 minutes.
Let cool slightly and remove paper and weights.

Mascarpone Cheese Filling
¾ cup (175 ml) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
¼ cup (60 ml) granulated sugar
1 egg
½ t (2 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 T (15 ml) flour

In a medium bowl, stir together the mascarpone cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla, and flour until well combined. Pour into the cooled tart shell and smooth the surface.

3 medium-size ripe Anjou or Bosc pears
¼ cup (60 ml) unsalted hazelnuts, chopped
2 T (30 ml) granulated sugar

3 T (45 ml) apricot jelly
2 T (30 ml) Calvados or peach brandy

Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C) degrees.

Peel and cut the pears in half and remove the core with a melon baller or a spoon.
Arrange in the tart shell with the narrower ends pointing towards center.
If necessary, trim the pears to fit into the tart.
Scatter the hazelnuts over the pears and sprinkle the sugar on top.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until golden and the pears are soft.

Heat the apricot jelly in a small saucepan, or microwave it just until warm.
Turn off heat and add the Calvados or peach brandy and mix to combine.
Brush over the pears.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6