Thursday, April 17, 2014

Smoked Salmon Mousse

This beautiful pastel colored mousse is so light and fluffy and it wows  every time it's served.

It can be served elegantly molded or casually in a simple bowl.  Either way the taste will impress.

The recipe is from a book called Party Food, Small and Savory by Barbara Kafka.  Barbara Kafka is a food journalist and has columns in the New York Times and Gourmet magazine.  I bought her book in the early '90's and over the years has come in handy whenever I need a recipe for hors d'oeuvres.

The essential ingredients are heavy cream (divided), smoked salmon, hot sauce, chives, fresh lemon juice, grated onion, salt and pepper.

A note on the salmon...since the salmon is going to be pureed I purchased salmon trim.  This was a little less expensive but did not compromise flavor in any way.  The trims are probably not as nice looking so as to decoratively display them on a serving tray; but they taste just as good.

Assemble all your ingredients.  Measure out and prep everything you can.

Process the salmon and the 1/2 cup of cream.

Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree.

Place the water and gelatin in a small saucepan and allow the gelatin to absorb the water.

Once absorbed slowly heat the gelatin until it is totally dissolved. Set aside and allow to cool. 

The remainder of the cream is whipped with the cooled gelatin and the flavorings added to it.  Then you'll lighten up the salmon mixture with some of the whipped cream.

The rest of the cream is gently folded into the salmon mixture.

Pour out the ice water in your mold but don't dry the mold.  Spoon the mousse into the mold, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1-1/2 hours or longer.

When ready to serve, unmold and serve with crackers or bread.  I like to serve mine with these canape breads.

Smoked Salmon Mousse
Recipe adapted from Party Food, Small and Savory by Barbara Kafka
Makes 40 hors d'oeuvres servings

6-1/2 ounces smoked salmon
3 cups heavy cream, divided
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2-1/2 tsp. grated onion
3 Tbsp. water
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (1/4 ounce)
1 tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
10 drops hot red pepper sauce
1/4 cup thin-sliced chives (see note)

If you are going to use a mold, prepare a 5 cup or larger mold by filling with ice water.  Set aside.

Divide cream into 1/2 cup and 2-1/2 cup portions.  Juice lemons.  Grate onion.  Thinly slice the chives.  (NOTE: if chives are unavailable use scallion greens, slicing lengthwise and then across).  Give the salmon a rough chop.

Place the 1/2 cup of cream and the salmon in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until smooth.  Transfer mixture to a blender and purée.  Set aside.

Place water in a small pan.  Add the gelatin and let it sit until absorbed.  Over low heat slowly heat the softened gelatin mixture until it is dissolved.  Remove the pan from heat and allow it to completely cool.

 Whip the 2-1/2 cups of cream until slightly soft peaks form.  Beat in the cooled gelatin mixture.  Stir in the lemon juice, onion, salt, pepper, red pepper sauce and chives.

Remove about 1/2 cup of the seasoned whipped cream and stir into the puréed salmon mixture to lighten it up.  Fold the rest of the whipped cream into the salmon mixture.

Empty the ice water from the mold but do not dry.  Spoon the salmon mousse into the mold.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-1/2 hours or until set.

When ready to serve, unmold by removing the plastic wrap and run a thin, flexible spatula around the edge of the mold (may not be necessary if the mousse has slightly separated from the edge of the mold).  Fill a mixing bowl, that is one size larger than the mold, with very hot water.  Carefully holding the mold by the rim, dip into the bowl of hot water and hold for  5 seconds to loosen.

Place the serving dish on top of the mold and invert the mold.  Tuck curly leaf parsley around the outer edges of the mousse on the platter.  Sprinkle mousse with chopped chives.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Valtrompia Canape Bread

Instead of buying crispy canape breads at the market for your next party, try making your own. 

I've had these tube pans for years and have enjoyed using them time and time again to make fun shaped canape breads.  They come three tubes to a set; a scallop, a star, and a heart.  Today I'm using the scallop and the star tubes.

The recipe that came with the tubes is a very easy one and has been fool proof all these years.  I've never bothered using another recipe with them although I'm sure it would be easy to do.  The recipe makes a dense, crusty bread that is ideal for Hors D'oeuvres.  I've often wondered why the recipe makes enough dough for two loaves when there are three tube pans.  Life if full of funny little mysteries.

I like to proof my yeast just to make sure it's still alive and kicking. 

The dough is easily mixed up in a stand mixer and kneaded with the dough hook.  You can knead by hand if you want.  I usually do; because it's great therapy for me.

Let the dough double in size then punch it down.  Divide it in two, roll into logs about 2" shorter than the tubes and place in the tubes.

Bake them for an hour.

Heh, looky here.  I've never had one bust out of the pan like this before.

A shooting star

Slice thinly.  These are good as is...

or you can place on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven.

These are so great for dips, spreads, mini sandwiches and whatever else your creative minds can dream up!

Valtrompia - Canape Bread
Makes 2 loaves
Recipe adapted from Rowoco's recipe provided with the bread molds

1/3 cup water
1 tsp sugar
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. butter
1-1/4 tsp salt
3 to 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour

In a heat proof measuring cup (like a Pyrex) heat the water in the microwave to a temp between 102° and 120° (130° to 140° may kill your yeast).  Add the sugar and yeast.  Stir and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.  If the mixture does not become foamy within that time your yeast is dead so repeat this with some fresh yeast.

Scald the milk either in the microwave or in a small saucepan.  Pour in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.  Melt the butter and add to milk along with the salt.  Using the flat paddle, stir until combined.

Add the yeast mixture and stir until combined.  Add 2-1/2 cups of the flour and incorporate on low speed.  Stir in as much of the remaining flour as necessary to form a soft dough (that is usually one more cup for me).

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough (on low speed), adding enough of the remaining flour as necessary to form a smooth ball (for about 7-1/2 minutes).  If you prefer to knead by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until your dough is smooth and does not stick to your hands.

Place dough in a greased bowl (I use solid Crisco).  Roll the dough around in the bowl so that all surfaces of the dough is greased all over.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm draft free place to rise until double in bulk.

Punch down.  Divide the dough in half.  Roll into logs 2 inches shorter than the tube and insert in mold.  Cap both ends and bake in a 400° oven for 60 to 70 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to remove ends and push bread out of the tube.  Let bread cool completely on a cooling rack.

When completely cooled slice thinly using a serrated knife.  Use as is or toast both sides of the slices in the oven.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Artichoke and Feta Tarts with Tomato Salad

This is a recipe from Donna Hay.  It's a nice starter for a small dinner party.  I also think it's suitable for spa food.
Simply cut a sheet of puff pastry into four 4" squares and score about 1/4" around the edges. 
Mix the feta and chopped artichoke on each square.  I actually had quite a bit of this mixture left over and it made for a great dip for Lovey.
While the pastries are baking toss together your salad of peas, tomatoes and mint and dress it with the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.
When the tarts come out of the oven top each tart with the salad and serve immediately.
My puff pastry didn't puff as much as I thought it should but I'm sure it's because I should have put it back into the refrigerator before putting it into the oven.  It got a little warm while working with it.
Bottom line about this recipe is that I did like it.  It was easy to put together.  Had a nice light flavor with the sweetness of the tomatoes & peas are a nice contrast to the cheese and artichoke.  The chiffonade of mint finishes it off nicely..  I think it more appropriate for Spring or summer so I probably won't visit this again until it gets warmer.  All in all a nice starter. 
Artichoke and Feta Tarts with Tomato Salad
A recipe by Donna Hay
Serves 4
1 sheet store-bought puff pastry, thawed
9 ounces marinated Persian feta
4 marinated artichoke hearts
1 egg
3-1/2 ounces mixed cherry tomatoes
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 mint leaves
olive oil & white balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Mise en place:
  •  crumble feta
  •  chop artichokes
  •  lightly beat egg
  •  halve tomatoes
  •  rinse peas and allow to thaw
  •  chiffonade the mint leaves
Preheat oven to 400° F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Cut the puff pastry into four - 4" squares.  Score  a 1/4" border around each square.  Place on the baking sheet and top each square with the feta-artichoke mixture.  Brush the borders of each tart with the lightly beaten egg.  Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden brown.

In a small mixing bowl toss the tomatoes, peas and mint.  Drizzle with enough oil and vinegar to lightly coat.

Top each tart with the salad and serve immediately.

I'm sharing this recipe at I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A Little Bit of New Year's Tradition

Ahh, yet another turkey in our household for the holiday.  This is the third.  Those who know Lovey know that he has to have turkey at every holiday.  This was was smoked which made it a little different.  All I had to do was make some Potatoes au Gratin, throw some Sister Shubert's Parker House Rolls in the oven and make the black eyed peas.  Two good reasons to make black eyed peas to accompany our New Year's dinner:  one, because that's just what you do in the South; and two, I received a new crock pot for Christmas (thanks Char & James!). 

Lovey and I spent New Year's Eve together quietly at home.  I had put a casserole together the night before.  That and champagne was our celebratory fare for the evening (heavy on the champagne).  We watched the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (in our opinion the best bowl game of the season so far) between Duke and Texas A&M.  We were pulling for Duke (sorry Johnny Football).  Even though the ending wasn't how we wished it was an exciting game.  I hate boring football games.

I bought two containers of fresh BEPs so I knew they wouldn't take any time at all to cook; which is a good thing, however I was concerned that the smoked ham hock from Kuby's wouldn't have sufficient time to flavor the beans or the broth if I cooked them on the stove for such a short time.

 Before I went to bed on NYE I threw some onion and garlic into the crock

 Added the hock

and a bouquet garni of fresh rosemary, thyme and bay leaf.  Covered with chicken stock then set the crock pot on low and let it cook overnight.
There's something wonderful about waking up to fabulous aromas coming from the kitchen.  I removed the hock to cool and tossed the bouquet garni.  I cubed a slab of Black Forest ham I had and added that to the stock along with the BEPs.  Re-set the crock pot to high & walked away to let the BEP's slowly get soft and soak up that nice broth.

The broth.  Mmmmmm, the broth turned out better than I have ever made.  It was clear and light, and since the broth wasn't cooked with the beans in it all night it didn't have that starchiness that it normally does.

Insurance for a prosperous and happy new year; that's what this is! 

Black Eyed Peas in a Crock Pot


1/2 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3-4 fresh sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large smoked ham hock
32 ounce box chicken broth
3/4" thick slab ham such as Black Forest (about 1/2 pound)
2 pint containers fresh black eyed peas
salt and pepper to taste

Mise en place:
  • thinly slice onion
  • peel and crush garlic clove
  • tie in a bundle the rosemary, thyme and bay leaf (can also wrap bundle in cheese cloth)
Place onion, garlic, bouquet garni and ham hock in crock pot.  Pour chicken broth over to cover.  Place lid on crock pot and secure.  Cook over night on low (8 - 10 hours).

Remove hock and let cool thoroughly.  Remove and throw away bouquet garni.

Cube the slab of ham (3/4" cubes) and toss into broth.

Rinse black eyed peas and add to broth.  Replace lid and cook on high approximately 2 hours or until peas have softened (but not to mush).

Salt and pepper to taste.  NOTE:  taste broth before adding any salt!  You can never tell how salty the ham and ham hock may be.  You may not need salt at all.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Brussels Sprouts Kimchi


Last year I participated in a challenge set forth by these guys and I was assigned Crepes Suzette.  This year Zach and Clay have thrown out a Cover to Cover Challenge by having their readers make all of the recipes in the September issue of Bon Appetit.  I naturally signed up again and was anxious to see what recipe I was assigned.

I have to be honest here and was kind of bummed when I saw I was given the challenge to make Brussels Sprouts Kimchi.  Hmmmm, well, uh, OK.  After my initial and personal and selfish, pouty response to my assignment I decided to embrace the Kimchi.  I was going to have fun with this; after all, that is why I enjoy participating in things like this.

I've never eaten Kimchi, which is traditionally made with Napa cabbage.  I've always thought it looked really nasty in the jars on grocery store shelves and although I'm not shy when it comes to spicy, I've heard this stuff is really, really H-O-T.  II know it's the national food of Korea and that's about the extent of my knowledge.  How do you eat this stuff?  Is it a condiment?  Would my friend who eats pickled herring right out of the jar with her fingers do the same with Kimchi???

The real challenge in this challenge was finding one of the ingredients.  Pointedly, this stuff.  Gochugaru, a coarse Korean red pepper powder was difficult to track down.  They didn't have it at Central Market.  It wasn't carried at Penzey's, and it was nowhere to be found on the shelves at Whole Foods.  I did a little investigative work and discovered it was going to be hard to substitute because the key in this spice was not that is was red pepper powder, but that it is coarse ground red pepper so cayenne, for instance, wouldn't be a good substitute.

I tracked down a great (and huge) Asian Market called Super HMart in a suburb of Dallas. and took a little field trip on my lunch hour.  This place was amazing.  I couldn't understand any of the signage so I showed a helpful lady the recipe and the spice I was looking for and she pointed me in the right direction.  With my new found ingredient under my arm I was anxious to whip this recipe out.

The base, of course, are small, tender Brussels sprouts.  After washing, trimming, and cutting in half they were soaked in a brine for 4 hours.

A plate is placed on top of them to keep them submerged.

These are all of the good things that will become a bright red, hot, spicy paste.

The onion, scallions and garlic are roughly chopped and the ginger is roughly grated

Then they are dumped in the food processor bowl and all of the other ingredients are tossed in as well.

The mixture is pulsed until you have a bright red paste.

The Brussels sprouts are drained from their brine and rinsed off.  The canning jars, lids and rings were boiled for about 10 minutes just to make sure everything was sanitary.

The Brussels sprouts were tossed with the chili paste then packed tight into the quart jars.

Pickling liquid is poured into the jars and they are sealed.

The jars are then set in a cool place away from direct sunlight to ferment for 3 to 5 days.

I haven't tried this condiment since it is still in it's fermentation stage but I am encouraged to try it solely from the enthusiasm from my neighbor Martha who was excited to take a jar home to enjoy.  Kimchi is her friend and she thought this looked and smelled heavenly.  I will be honest that I am hesitant about trying this.  I know for a fact that Lovey won't have anything to do with it because of it's spicy nature.

At the right time I'll give it a try and let you know what I thought of it and how Martha and her family liked it.  One of the pleasures in life is to try new things.  It doesn't mean that we have to like everything but at least we've tried them.  Will send an update soon!
Brussels Sprouts Kimchi
From the September 2013 issue of Bon Appetit
Makes 2 quarts

1-1/2 lb. small Brussels sprouts
1/2 small yellow onion
2 scallions
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup gochugaru (coarse Korean red pepper powder)
2 Tbsp. Sriracha
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. coriander seeds, crushed
2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed

Wash and trim the stems of the Brussels sprouts and but them in half.  In a large mixing bowl mix 3.5 ounces of salt with 2 quarts warm water.  Whisk until the salt is dissolved.  Add the Brussels sprouts and place a plate on top of them to keep them submerged in the brine.  Let them sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

While the Brussels sprouts are in the brine measure out and prepare all other ingredients.

Peel and coarsely chop the onion.  Slice the scallions.  Peel and crush the garlic.  Peel and grate the ginger.  Crush the coriander seed and the fennel seed.

After the four hours of soaking in the brine, drain and rinse the Brussels sprouts.  Place them in a large mixing bowl.

In the bowl of a food processor, place the onion, scallions, garlic, gochugaru, fish sauce, Sriracha, ginger, soy sauce, and coriander and fennel seeds.  Pulse until smooth.  Add to the bowl with the Brussels sprouts and toss.  I would suggest wearing kitchen gloves and tossing with your hands.  Pack the mixture to two 32-ounce canning jars, packing down to eliminate air gaps.

Combine the remaining .7 ounce of salt and 1 quart warm water in a large bowl, whisking to dissolve the salt.  Pour this pickling liquid into the jars to cover the Brussels sprouts, leaving at least 1 inch headspace.  Cover jars with lids.  Let sit out of direct sunlight at room temperature for about 3 to 5 days.  The kimchi should taste tangy and releases bubbles when stirred. Chill.

This recipe can be made and kept chilled for 2 months.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Sherry Cake

There was once a little cake that people just couldn't get enough of; correction...they still can't get enough of.  With the super elegant taste that it has you would never believe it is such a simple cake to make.  And using a boxed mix no less.

During the late seventies when my dear friend Tyra and I owned a little tea room in Midland, Texas this cake was always in high demand.

Tyra's mother Helen passed the recipe on to us.  It was given to her by a young man who was in culinary school in San Antonio.  Over the decades I have run across a gazillion people who have this recipe or something similar.  A co-worker of mine brings the exact same cake to work except he uses rum.  I'm actually surprised that I don't see it more often.

Enough of the history lesson, it's simply the greatest cake you can make and take anywhere for any occasion.

Simple ingredients:  yellow cake mix, vanilla instant pudding, eggs, water, canola oil, and dry sherry. 

A word on a couple of the ingredients if I may. 
Cake Mix - buy the yellow butter recipe
Pudding - make sure it is instant; also, if you can't find regular vanilla, I have used French Vanilla. 
Sherry - please make sure it is d-r-y; you don't need  an expensive sherry but make sure it's dry; and never use cooking sherry!!
Eggs - I crack my eggs into a bowl before adding to a recipe.  Trust me, if you have ever cracked an egg into a recipe and it turned out to be rotten, you might not crack another egg in your life.


This is why it's so easy...just dump everything but the nuts in the mixing bowl and mix.

 Begin by mixing on low for about 30 seconds to stir everything together

Now flip the switch to medium high and beat for about 2 minutes until the batter is soft and fluffy

Fold in the pecans

Prepare a Bundt pan by spraying well with vegetable spray and pour in the batter.

Here's what gives this cake it's 'wow factor'.  A sherry sauce made of sugar, butter and, what a surprise, dry sherry!

It's very important that the sauce be heated up slowly and boiled briskly for 2 minutes only.  Any time I've had trouble turning this cake out of the pan is when I did not let the sugar dissolve completely or I boiled the sauce for too long and it got to a soft ball stage and hardened too much while cooling in the pan.  The making of the sauce is timed so that it boils for two minutes prior to the cake coming out of the oven.  That's because the minute you take the cake out of the oven, you do this..

Pour the boiling sauce over the just-out-of-the-oven cake and watch it boil right into the cake.  The heat of the cake and the heat of the sauce just explode into bubbles.  See the wax paper under the cooling rack?  I put that there to catch any of the sauce that may boil over; just easier to clean up.

Oh my goodness, I wish you could scratch and sniff this photo; it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for thirty minutes so it can soak up all of that glorious sauce.

After the cooling time in the pan the cake will have soaked up all of that boozy, sugary sauce.

Turn the cake out on another cooling rack and allow it to cool completely.  Warning:  although the cake has been cooling in the pan for 30 minutes, the pan is still really hot.  So, take precautions when you turn it out of the pan.

Eat it warm, room temperature or cold; it will not disappoint.  Personally, I like it warm.  Cut a slice, pop it in the microwave for about 20 seconds and it will taste like it just came out of the oven.

This cake freezes well too.  I have successfully frozen it whole and as individually sliced pieces.

Sherry Cake
Serves 12

For the Cake -

1 yellow butter recipe cake mix
1 3.4 ounce box vanilla instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dry sherry
1 cup chopped pecans

For the Sauce -

1 stick salted butter (4 oz.)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dry sherry

Mise en place:
  • empty cake mix and instant pudding into mixing bowl
  • measure out water, oil and sherry
  • break eggs into bowl
  • chop pecans

Pre-heat oven to 325 °F.  Add eggs, water, oil, and sherry to the dry ingredients that are in the mixing bowl.  Mix on low for 30 seconds until all ingredients are wet.  With spatula, sweep sides of bowl and mix ingredients on medium-high speed for 2 minutes.  Fold in pecans.

Spray Bundt pan with vegetable spray.  Pour cake batter into pan.  In a circular motion drag a knife through batter around the center of the pan to break any air bubbles and even out the batter.  Place on rack in middle of oven and bake for one hour.

Place a piece of wax paper on cabinet top and place a cooling rack on top of the wax paper. You want the wax paper there in case the sherry sauce over flows.

While cake is baking, prepare sauce.  In a small saucepan place butter, sugar and sherry.  Set a timer to 2 minutes but don't start it yet.  Begin melting and dissolving ingredients over low heat. 

Here is where you want to find your timing.  With my cook top I start dissolving the sauce over low heat when the cake has about 9 minutes left to cook.  With a small whisk, stir as ingredients are dissolving.  When sauce begins to boil turn on your pre-set timer and whisk constantly.  If it begins to overflow lift the saucepan off the fire until the foaming subsides then set it back on the fire.

When the timer for the cake goes off and the tester stick comes out clean, remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack.  Slowly begin to pour the sherry sauce over the top of the cake.  It will boil and bubble so try to distribute around the top of the cake evenly.

Allow cake to cool in pan for 30 minutes.  Turn cake out on another cooling rack to completely cool.