Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bite-size Beignets with Gruyère, Fennel & Piment d'espelette

These beignets are based on the French dough, pâte á choux. It’s the same dough used for profiteroles or éclairs. A very simple method which produces impressive results.

Beignets may be rolled out and cut then fried, however in this recipe the beignet dough is shaped with a spoon or a scoop, then dropped into hot oil to cook. You can also pipe them onto a baking sheet, brush with an egg wash and bake them.

Rather than the traditional sweet version, this time I added shredded Gruyère cheese, minced fennel bulb which I sweated in a little butter, and toasted fennel seeds to the dough, then fried them and sprinkled with the highly fragrant and spicy Piment d'espelette. Cayenne, or another ground red pepper could be substituted as well.

Please don't allow the length of this recipe to dissuade you from making them ~ they actually go together quite quickly.

I like to form the little balls with a very small food scoop (about 1-inch in diameter). This way the puffs cook quickly and perfectly, the exterior is crispy, crunchy, and the interior is moist and just cooked through. They are best best eaten immediately after cooking, which is a good thing because it is an effort in futility to resist these little morsels, as they drain on paper towels!

However, you can keep them for a short time by placing them on a pan, in a warm (200* F) oven for up to a half an hour.

Bite-size Beignets with Gruyère and Fennel
This recipe is easily doubled or tripled. The recipe as listed makes a generous serving for 3 to 4 people as an appetizer, or accompaniment with soups or salads.

You can blend this dough by hand, but I use an electric hand-held mixer.

Initial prep:

Line a shallow metal pan with paper towels, or brown paper. Set aside.

1/4 cup water
2 ounces butter (1/4 stick), plus a teaspoon for sweating the minced fennel bulb
1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/3 cup grated Gruyère or other firm cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh fennel bulb
1 to 2 teaspoons toasted fennel seeds
Vegetable oil for frying, I use canola oil
Piment d'espelette, Cayenne or other finely ground hot pepper for sprinkling


Toast fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat for a few moments until they release their fragrance. Remove to a dish and allow to cool.

In the same pan melt the butter and saute the minced fennel bulb. Add a tablespoon of water, stir and allow the fennel to sweat and become tender. Remove to a dish and cool, set aside.

For the dough:

Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a small saucepan.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour, stirring well until mixture is combined.

Return the pan to medium high heat and stir, or beat with hand held electric beater until batter pulls away from the side of the pan. Continue beating until the dough cools slightly for about a minute.

On low speed, add 1/3 of the beaten egg. After each portion of egg is added continue to beat until the egg is incorporated. (You can also beat by hand.)

Add the grated cheese and cooled fennel and fennel seeds. Beat well to combine and distribute additional ingredients evenly.

Either heat oil in an electric fryer, or heat oil in a deep heavy pot, stove top (only fill pot half full with oil). Heat oil to 365 to 370* (F) using a frying thermometer.
Drop scant teaspoon size portions of dough/batter into the hot oil very carefully. Only cook about 6 at a time or the oil will not retain temperature and beignets will be heavy and oily.

The dough will drop to the bottom of the pan then immediately rise and float during cooking. Turn occasionally with a slotted spoon, chopstick or wire ladle.

When the beignets are golden brown and puffed, remove from oil and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle sparingly with Piment d'espelette or other finely ground hot pepper powder if desired.
Best eaten immediately, so serve right away, but be careful. The interiors will be VERY hot.

If not eaten right after cooking, place in preheated 200* (F) oven, in a single layer and not touching each other, for up to a half an hour.

Serve on a plate, in paper cones, or in a pretty napkin-lined basket.

Beware, these are irresistible ~ I hope you enjoy!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dark Chocolate and Apple Packets

Dark Chocolate and Apple Packets
Makes 8

2 small apples or 1 large, sliced between 1/8th to 1/4-inch slices (if pieces are large, cut to size so they are slightly smaller than a wonton square.)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 to 3.5 ounces dark chocolate, cut into 8 pieces
16 wonton wrappers*
confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar), to serve

Preheat oven to 350* (F)

Lightly grease a shallow baking pan.

Arrange 8 wonton wrappers, evenly spaced, on the greased pan.

Place a slice of apple and a piece of chocolate in the center of a wonton wrapper. With a pastry brush, or your finger, dampen the edges of the wonton wrapper with water, top with another wonton wrapper and press the edges to seal.
Continue the same process with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Brush the tops with butter and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden.

Allow to cool slightly, dust with powdered sugar and serve. Best served warm.
But I don't toss them out if they cool down. :)

*usually available in the refrigerated produce area of most grocery stores.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay magazine.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Creamy Turkey Soup with Herb Drop Dumplings

From the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate

Many times when I'm cooking I don't use a recipe, that's what makes cooking a fun and creative outlet for me. I think many of us home cooks do the same thing. But it can be aggravating if you are one who must have a recipe to follow, so I apologize in advance. This is another one which I'll describe rather than give an exact recipe.

But it's okay! Just follow your instincts adjust to the thickness you're looking for, and taste and season until you're satisfied.

I'll admit, I'm not a fan of shredded poultry in my chicken or turkey salads, ditto with my chicken or turkey soups; so I usually always make the chunky kind.

No "mystery" shreds; I like to see and taste the chunks, and they fit on the fork or soup spoon much more neatly, too but if you like shreds, by all means!

Creamy Turkey Soup with Herb Drop Dumplings

Use any vegetables you happen to like, or have on hand. My favs for this soup are onions, celery, carrots and (frozen) peas. Add the peas just before serving long enough to heat through, so they remain a bright green.

First, prepare the Beurre Manie (see below), and set aside. I like chunky chicken or turkey soups, not shredded so I cube the cooked meat.

In the soup pot heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil, add the chopped onions & stir occasionally until just translucent. Add the sliced carrots, stir for a minute or two then add the celery.

Add chicken stock or broth to the pot, (add as much in volume as soup you would like to make). Add a sprig of thyme and/or a bay leaf if you like.

Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer until carrots are tender.

While vegetables are simmering make the Beurre Manie (recipe follows).
When veggies are tender, remove the thyme sprig & discard. I add about a cup of non-fat or low-fat milk until hot, then proceed ~

Blend in as much Beurre Manié , a bit at a time allowing the soup to simmer and thicken until it is to your liking, adding more Beurre Manie to achieve consistency you prefer.

Gently stir in the cooked turkey chunks and heat through; then stir in the frozen peas, they take no time to thaw and warm through.

Black Pepper and Herb Drop Dumplings

This is essentially a quick mix (like Bisquick), but with no hydrogenated fats.
Can mix these ingredients (omit herbs and pepper) and use in place of bisquick in any recipe.

1 1/8 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix together dry ingredients.
Add oil and combine using pastry cutter or 2 knives or pulse in food processor until blended

To make the dumplings ~

To the above dry mix, add about 1/2 cup of milk (I use non or low fat), may need a little more. Add enough to make a slightly soft dough
Herbs: Your choice, and as much as you like of fresh, minced herbs (can substitute dry herbs) I always add finely chopped fresh parsley, too.
Freshly ground black pepper (we like a generous amount)
Before serving soup, drop dough by spoonfuls onto boiling soup (or stew), Reduce heat, cook uncovered 10 minutes. Cover pot, cook additional 10 minutes.
Makes about 6 dumplings (depending upon size.)

* Beurre Manié: Literally; "hand butter".

In this magical French thickener equal amounts of butter and all-purpose flour are blended together to form a smooth paste, to be added to hot liquid, then simmered acting as a thickening agent. I double the amount, and store any unused portion in the refrigerator for later use.
Surprisingly, even though the flour is not cooked ahead of time, there is no raw flour taste when using this thickener.

I just mix it up as I need it (equal amount of soft butter and all- purpose flour, blended until smooth) no need to form into balls. Or you can make it in advance & shape it into convenient to use balls, to have on hand to thicken gravies, stews, soups and such.

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter

Blend butter and flour well; shape into 4 to 6 balls. Refrigerate if not using right away.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Shellfish Roast

Shellfish Roast
2 servings

Note: Soft shell crabs, crawfish, petite lobster tails, mussels, etc. can be substituted or added to this roast, depending upon what is available. Mix the shellfish anyway you like to make enough for 2 servings.

4 raw scampi, or colossal prawns, halved and cleaned
6 raw large prawns, halved and cleaned
Sea Scallops, 3 to 6, if desired bake on scallop shells (optional)
about 8 or so small clams in the shell

For the mixture to spread on the seafood before baking:

5 tablespoons of butter (I use a combination of butter and olive oil)*
1 tablespoon salted capers, rinsed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon thyme leaves (lemon thyme leaves are very good in this recipe, if you have them)
cracked black pepper
lemon halves, to serve

Preheat oven to 400* (F)

Arrange prepared shellfish on a large, shallow baking dish or pan lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Mix together the butter, capers, garlic, chili, lemon rind, thyme and pepper. Spread or dot butter over the shellfish. Drizzle with olive oil, if using.

Place in hot oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until seafood is just cooked through. Serve with lemon halves.

* I mix the garlic, capers, chili flakes, lemon zest with 3 tablespoons butter for the spread. Then drizzle about 2 tablespoons olive oil over the seafood.


Recipe inspired by Donna Hay

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Parmesan French Toast with Wilted Garlic Spinach Topping

Parmesan French Toast with Wilted Garlic Spinach Topping
serves 4

4 large eggs
Scant 1 tablespoon milk
1 cup grated parmesan (use the best quality, and finely grate it yourself ~ it makes a difference)
sea salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons butter (you may need a little bit more)
4 slices bread*
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 ounces baby spinach leaves, two to three big handfuls
finely grated parmesan, extra
lemon wedges, to serve

Note: In the original recipe the bread is simply dipped into the egg mixture, however, since I was using slices of more dense homemade 5-minute-a-day bread, I actually soaked the bread, turning occasionally for about 30 t0 45 minutes, then cooked it over lower heat, for longer that in indicated in the recipe below. If you are using a commercial French or Sourdough bread, there is probably no need to do this.


In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, parmesan* , salt and pepper until blended.

Melt half the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat until butter is hot. Dip the bread into the egg mixture, add to pan and cook, in batches, for 2–3 minutes each side or until golden. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the remaining butter and garlic to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the spinach and cook for a further minute or until just wilted.

Serve the French toast with the spinach, parmesan and lemon wedges. Serves 4.

* Thick white sourdough is a great bread for this dish as it soaks up the egg cheese mixture.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay by Once Upon a Plate

I hope you like it as much as we did!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Caramelized Pear Salad with Walnuts and Brie

Caramelized Pear Salad with Walnuts and Brie

4 servings


3-4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 firm pears, quartered and cored
1/2 cup walnuts
1 bag (about 5 ounces) arugula leaves, spring or field greens
About 4 to 5 ounces Brie, Camembert, or soft blue cheese, sliced

Place butter, vinegar and sugar in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pear and walnuts and cook for 4 minutes or until the pear is just soft.

Place the arugula or field greens on serving plates and top with the pear and walnuts. Spoon over the pan juices and top with the cheese.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken (or Vegetables)

Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken (Or Vegetables)
4 servings

From the Once Upon a Plate blog ~ In this case evil translates to tasty!

The delicious and spicy stir-fry is served atop a bed of chopped cabbage. There are many versions of this recipe, I devised this one from several I found on the internet. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.


1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken or turkey (or lean, boneless pork)
1/2 pound mixed vegetables ~ see suggestions below
4 small red chili peppers (I use fresh Thai chilis)
1/2 stalk lemongrass
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce (I use 1 tablespoon fish sauce, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce; you can omit the fish sauce and use 2 tablespoons soy sauce instead.)
15 basil leaves
1 to 3 cups cabbage chopped

If you choose to include meat in the recipe, thinly slice chicken or turkey or pork into 2-inch strips. Next cut veggies into thin strips or slices.

I like to stir fry the chopped cabbage in a little oil for just a minute or two to soften it just slightly and allow the cabbage to mellow in flavor. I plate it on a warmed platter or serving dishes and keep it warm while making the remainer of the recipe.

The traditional recipe indicates to simmer the meat and vegetables together in the coconut milk mixture, but I prefer to cook them first then simmer briefly in the sauce.

I stir fry the meat next over high heat, in a little oil until just barely done, then set aside. Stir fry vegetables of choice until crisp tender, set aside with the chicken while continuing with recipe.

Grind together red chili peppers, lemon grass, and kaffir lime leaves in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle.

Heat oil and sauté pepper mixture for two to three minutes. Stir in coconut milk and cook for one to two minutes. Add the cooked chicken (or other meat, if using) and stir well to heat throughout. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in fish sauce and basil. Serve on bed of chopped cabbage.

Note: Some suggestions for the mixed vegetables~ bell peppers (any color), string beans, water chestnuts, cherry tomatoes, bamboo shoots, miniature corn, asparagus, cucumbers, zucchini, Japanese eggplant, mung bean sprouts, mushrooms.

I hope you enjoy!

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Green Bean and Bacon Salad

Green Bean and Bacon Salad
4 to 6 servings


• 1 pound slender green beans, stems trimmed
• 1/4 pound thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/4" pieces
• 1 large shallot, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted
• 1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped
• 1 Tablespoon grainy mustard
• 1 Tablespoon hot water
• pinch sugar
• 1 lemon, juiced
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (I reduce to a scant 1/4 cup)


Blanch green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 4 minutes. Drain and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and transfer to a large bowl or platter.

Cook the bacon until crispy. Drain on paper towels, then sprinkle or arrange over the green beans along with walnuts, and parsley.
3.In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine shallots, mustard, water, sugar, and lemon juice. Add the oil, put the cap on and shake vigorously to emulsify. Taste for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as desired.

Dress the beans just before serving, tossing well to coat with the dressing.

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oven Baked Parmesan Risotto

Oven Baked Parmesan Risotto
12 servings *

3 cups arborio or other short-grained rice suitable for risotto
6 cups chicken stock (I use Pacific Organic Broth, from the box)
2 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 ounces butter
Salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 355* (F), 180*(C)

In an oven-proof pot with a tight fitting lid stir the rice into the chicken stock.
Cover tightly with foil and/or lid and place in preheated oven and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes or until the liquid is almost all absorbed and the rice is al dente.
* [Back to Edit: After making this the second time, I found it turned out much more like traditional risotto by stirring a few times while the rice is baking ~ adding more liquid as needed.]

Remove from oven; stir in the Parmesan and butter until creamy, season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in more stock if the rice mixture is too thick. Serve hot.

* Note:

I halve this recipe and have found that it is necessary to increase the broth by a couple of tablespoons, and to reduce cooking time to about 35 to 40 minutes. (The baking time will depend upon the size and construction material of your baking vessel.) But don't worry if your risotto bakes a little drier than you like ~ simply stir in additional stock at the end of baking time.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pan Seared Nectarines with Caramelized Vanilla-Scented Yogurt

Pan Seared Nectarines with Caramelized Vanilla-Scented Yogurt
Serves 4

1/2 cup brown sugar
4 nectarines, peaches, or a few plums or pears ~ halved and stones/seeds removed
1 1/2 cups thick, natural, unflavored yogurt (Greek yogurt works great)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Sprinkle the 1/2 cup brown sugar on a flat plate & press fruit halves, cut-side-down into the sugar. Place fruit, cut-side-down in a wide frying pan which has been heated over medium-high flame. Allow to cook for 1 minute or until golden brown, remove fruit from the pan and place (cut side up) on serving plates, spoon any juices evenly over each piece of fruit.
To make the caramelized yogurt:
Stir vanilla extract into the yogurt, place in a serving bowl (or individual serving bowls), sprinkle remaining brown sugar evenly over the yogurt and allow to stand for about one minute or until sugar has dissolved.
Serve right away.
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay

Monday, October 5, 2009

Frico Wafer, Apple, Goat cheese and Arugula Salad

Frico Wafer, Apple, Goat Cheese and Arugula Salad
4 servings
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 red apples, thinly slices
About 3 to 4 ounces arugula leaves (I like baby arugula),
can use spring greens or baby spinach leaves
5 ounces soft goat cheese
Whisk dressing ingredients together and set aside:
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 350* (F). Place eight portions of grated Parmesan in flattened rounds (about 1 1/2 tablespoons each) on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper, or on a silicone baking mat. Bake for 10 minutes or until crispy, set aside to cool.
Divide greens evenly among four plates, arrange apple and goat cheese slices on top.
Drizzle dressing evenly over each portion of salad. Place two frico wafers on each plate.
Serve with additional black pepper if desired.
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