Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mango-Peach Sangria

On a trip to Durham, NC, I had a deliciously refreshing glass of Sangria at an Italian restaurant! I had never tried Sangria before and was really surprised at the wonderful fruity flavors! Sadly, I didn't get the recipe but I am on a quest for a great Sangria recipe! I have yet to find a Sangria that has the same wonderful flavor combination as what I had on the trip.

I am going to work my way through a number of recipes and maybe with some help from friends, the magic combination will be found!

The first recipe I tried was Mango-Peach Sangria in the July issue of Food and Wine. I was a bit skeptical because it called for Grand Marnier but I figured I might as well try!

Mango-Peach Sangria

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 cup Grand Marnier
1 bottle Viognier
1 chopped mango
2 peaches cut into thin wedges
1/4 cup mint

In a saucepan, cook the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves; transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate until cold. Stir in the Grand Marnier, Viognier, mango, peaches and mint and serve over ice.

Sounds easy enough!

The first taste took my breath away. The Grand Marnier was very strong. The recipe in the magazine said to serve immediately. I think that it needs to sit (with ice) for a little while to allow the fruit flavors to be noticed.


The men loved this drink!

Yukon Gold Potato Salad with Caramelized Leeks, Goat Cheese and Asparagus

My sister-in-law and I exchange cookbook gifts frequently. We both love to cook and share with each other. I especially love our family dinners because we have so much fun in the kitchen together. We usually enjoy a glass of champagne in celebration of the occasion!

This year, for my birthday, she gave me the Cahoots Cookbook. Cahoots is a catering company on California's Central Coast. The book is filled with their catering company's most requested recipes.

I was really curious about their recipe for Yukon Gold Potato Salad with Caramelized Leeks, Goat Cheese and Asparagus. This is a recipe that is prepared each year at the "Not Your Average Backyard Barbecue" event at the Tobin James Cellars'. It is the kickoff to summer in the wine country. That said, my expectations for this salad were high!

Yukon Gold Potato Salad with Caramelized Leeks, Goat Cheese and Asparagus

1 Tbsp olive oil
4 leeks, white and light green parts, thinly sliced and rinsed (about 2 cups)
4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes,
3 stalks celery, rinsed, patted dry, chopped
1 pound fresh asparagus (about 1 bunch)
1-2 Tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
6 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

1. In an 8 quart saucepan or stock pot add the potatoes. Cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until tender when pierced with a knife.

2. In a small saucepan bring one quart of water to a boil. Cut the asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Add to the boiling water and blanch until just tender, about two minutes.

3. In a large saute pan heat olive oil over medium low heat. Add sliced leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks begin to brown lightly and caramelize. Set aside.

4. Cut cooked potatoes into 1-inch pieces and put into mixing bowl. Add celery, asparagus, tarragon, chives, goat cheese and caramelized leeks. Toss lightly to mix.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, Dijon, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss until well mixed, but don't over mix.

Serves 12-14


The flavors were well-balanced, initially. As the flavors melded, waiting until serving time, the tarragon took over! By the time the salad was served that evening, the tarragon had over-powered all of the other ingredients. I would definitely recommend cutting back on the fresh tarragon....a little goes a long way! Next time, I will start with a tablespoon and adjust to taste.  I adjusted the recipe above to reflect that.

I know that I will continue making this salad. I loved all of the ingredients! I just need the right balance of herbs. I will also consider substituting basil or thyme after I figure out the right balance using the tarragon!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pay it Forward - Be a Part of the Fun!!!

I am very excited to be one of the winner's of Cathy's Pay it Forward contest. I am new at blogging and had discovered Cathy's blog, Wives with Knives just before she left for France. In fact, I made her delicious Almond Tart and received rave reviews from everybody who had a sample! At that point I was hooked! When Cathy returned from France I read about Pay it Forward and left a comment!

The winner in Pay it Forward also becomes the giver! I will be sending a package, within the next 365 days, to two randomly selected people who leave a comment on this post. The catch is that you must have a blog and be willing to do the same thing! To enter, leave a comment on this post no later than Thursday, July 9, 2009 by 5:00 p.m. (Pacific time)

I will announce the winners on Sunday, July 12, 2009. I hope that you will leave a comment! I would love to send you a gift from California's Central Valley!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lemon Yogurt Cake Revisited

Last week I made the Lemon Yogurt Cake for a friend but I didn't get to taste it! I love anything with lemon so I had no choice but to make it again! This has become my new favorite cake. I loved the texture - it is like a pound cake but has no butter. It has the lemon flavor that was missing for me when I made the Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. I think with a few little changes, I could improve upon that recipe....but that is for another time.

There are a couple of things I need to point out. Fresh lemons are a must. When I made the cake the first time I didn't have enough fresh lemon juice for the glaze. That much I did get to taste and I thought it was harsh. What a difference between fresh lemon juice and "the bottled!"

Also, the directions are not very clear as to when the cake is removed from the pan. The cake is left in the pan to absorb the lemon-sugar mixture that is poured over it after it has come out of the oven. After the cake has cooled, this takes about an hour, it is removed from the pan, placed on the rack and then the glaze is poured over it.

If you try it, let me know how it turns out!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

German Chocolate Cupcakes

When I was growing up, one of my favorite desserts was German Chocolate Cake. I don't know why I have never made it. Maybe it is the fact that the calories are too many in number! Maybe I was intimidated by the layers. Whatever the reason, I knew that I was making German Chocolate Cupcakes when I saw the recipe in this month's House Beautiful magazine.

They were very simple to make and since they were in smaller portions, I am certain that the calorie intake was smaller also! If I could only stop eating them!

Barefoot Contessa
German Chocolate Cupcakes
(makes 14 cupcakes)

12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream at room temperature
2 tbsp freshly brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and both sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. On low speed add
the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.

3. Divide the batter between the cupcake pans (I use one rounded 2 1/4 inch ice cream scoop per cupcake.) Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

German Chocolate Frosting

(for 14 cupcakes)

12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 extra-large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure almond extract
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted
1 cup chopped pecans

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the milk, sugar, egg yolks, almond extract, vanilla extract, and salt with a wooden spoon. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Lower the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes until the mixture thickens a little and coats the back of the spoon. Don't allow it to boil!! If the mixture gets lumpy, turn off the heat and beat it vigorously with a whisk.

2. Off the heat, add the coconut, almonds, and pecans and allow to cool about 1 hour. Frost the cupcakes with a dinner knife or metal spatula.


Don't they look delicious?!

The neighbors benefited from this baking spree. I couldn't leave German Chocolate Cupcakes sitting around the house!

I am linking to the Star Recipe Collection!

Weekend Travels for Others!

The summer is a busy time for me at work. I rarely get a vacation....too busy during the summer and much to busy during the remainder of the year. There is something wrong with that picture! I am getting a few days to travel to the Pacific Northwest to visit family and friends. I am looking forward to it.

I do, however, long for the day when I can travel without thinking about getting back in time to prepare for this or that at work. When that day comes, I will try to learn how to relax! The travels do not have to be to places faraway but on occasion that would be nice.

My friend is in Lucca, Italy. She visited Cinque Terra today, a group of fishing villages along the Italian Coast. She was kind enough to make me more jealous by sharing a picture of her lunch with me!

This is a big daughter, who is working in London at the moment, is spending this weekend in Madrid. She hasn't tortured me with any pictures of food, but she promises me some pictures soon.

I guess my time will be spent playing in the kitchen and just maybe there will be time to pick up a magazine or book!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Lemon Yogurt Cake

I have a friend who is leaving for Tuscany on Tuesday....oh, to be able to tag along! Since I cannot, I decided to pay a visit this afternoon with a send off gift and the Lemon Yogurt Cake. The cake is for her husband who is staying home to play in a softball tournament or two. That is if it lasts that until Tuesday!

The Lemon Yogurt Cake is an Ina Garten recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home. This recipe was her effort to update her favorite lemon cake recipe after being inspired by Dorie Greenspan's Yogurt Cake recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours. I love that the cake is like a pound cake but without the butter!

Lemon Yogurt Cake

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze

1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 C. lemon juice and remaining 1/3 C. sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.
I am ready to slice the cake! I can smell the lemon....

The Daughter: Updating from London

Hiya, Kate's daughter reporting in from London!  I've had a great weekend in London getting out of my comfort zone. Yesterday I took the tube down to Kew and went to the National Archive to look at a few 16th century documents. I forget how beautiful the areas surrounding Kew are. No wonder the medieval kings of England had their get-aways there. As I walked to-and-from the archive there were a string of cats just waiting to be pet, and I (of course) obliged. The cats have it good since it's the main road used by all the people to get from the tube stop to the Archives.

Today I was invited to a friend's birthday luncheon, so I walked a
mile or so to Marylebone High Street, one my favorite shopping districts in London. It's a little too posh for its own good, but there's a wonderful farmer's market, an amazing cheese store, and some great food shops. Today, I visited Rococo Chocolates, a wonderful local chocolate shop. I picked out an assortment of truffles for my friend and they were wrapped up perfectly. I love the images on the boxes! She was generous to share a birthday chocolate with me, which happened to be a tea-flavored truffle. It
was lovely!

We met for lunch at a Sardinian restaurant aptly named Little Sardegna. It doesn't seem to have a website, but a review can be found here. I had a lovely pasta with clams with grated bottarga sprinkled on top. The bottarga provided a nice, salty flavor, but wasn't overpowering in the least. For dessert I had seadas, a Sardinian dessert that was delectable. It's basically fried dough filled with cheese and lemon zest and drizzled with honey. Yum. Here's a recipe in case someone wants to make it for me in the future!

(image credits: jobrocken and freak_irish_sister)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Salmon Shall Not Go to Waste!

We barbecued some salmon last night. It was delicious. T always does an outstanding job on the barbe! I decided to use the leftover salmon in a one dish meal. I had vegetables still hanging around from Saturday's veggie box and was determined that they would not go to waste. I decided that a pasta dish would be a great way to use the salmon and the veggies in the frig.

We love getting the vegetable and fruit box each week, some of the vegetables we have never tried before so it can be an adventure! Abundant Harvest Organics has vegetable and fruit boxes available each Saturday. They are "an alliance of small family farmers in Central California dedicated to growing superior organic produce and getting it to you in the simplest manner possible; that is, without the use of chemicals or packaging materials. They grow locally and supply locally, cutting the need for expensive and wasteful fuel and packing resources."

This week I had English peas, green onion and zucchini begging to be eaten. The Kitchen Gnome was willing to shell the peas so....combining pasta, salmon and vegetables in a light cream sauce sounded like a great idea. I modified a recipe that I found years ago in San Francisco Encore a Junior League Cookbook.

Pasta, Salmon and Vegetables

1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped green onion, including some top
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half and half
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Grated peel and juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
About 12 oz pasta, cooked and drained (I prefer spiral as the sauce sticks in all the little twists!)
Leftover salmon cut in small pieces, about 1-2 cups
English peas, shelled, about 1 cup, blanched
1 small zucchini, julienned and blanched
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

Saute the mushrooms in about 2 Tbsp butter until soft. Remove from skillet. Add the remaining butter and saute the green onion and garlic. Stir in the flour. Cook for 1 minute, do not brown. Gradually stir in the chicken broth and half and half. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth and thickened, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, lemon peel and juice, basil and pepper. Cook for a few minutes more. Add the cooked pasta and toss to mix. Gently stir in the mushrooms, salmon, zucchini, and English peas. Cook until heated. Arrange in a pasta platter, top with a chiffonade of additional basil.

T's request was to please write down what I did this time...and I have. This is a keeper!