Posts from December 2014

Polynesian Bruschetta for New Year's Eve Cocktail Hour, Coconut Caponata

Fresh ideas for New Year's Eve cocktail hour or New Year's Day lunch...

Italian classic gets a face lift with this palate teaser from Coconut 24/7 (Harper 360, US Edition, August 2014) by Pat Crocker...

Coconut Caponata

Makes 3 cups

Caponata is a traditional Italian dish featuring eggplant, garlic and tomatoes, often served with antipasti or as a relish. Toasted almonds and coconut give this version an Oceanic flair. Use it as an accompaniment for cooked meat, poultry and fish, as a sauce for cooked rice or pasta, or on toasted bread slices for a Polynesian bruschetta. Basil makes a great garnish.

3 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small eggplant, diced
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1-1/4 cups Coconut Gremolata (page 149)
1/2 cup chopped pitted black olives (optional)

Coconut Caponata image_CROCKER

In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until eggplant begins to turn golden brown. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until eggplant is soft, the liquid from the tomatoes has been reduced and the mixture has thickened. Stir in gremolata and olives (if using) and heat through.

(* Reproduced with permission from Coconut 24/7 'Easy Ways to Look and Feel Better'by Pat Crocker-US edition published by Harper 360, August 2014)

For Rain and Zebra Days, Sweet Potato Soup with Lime Leaves, Beech Mushrooms, Basil, Peanuts by Becky Selengut

In a mushroom state of mind?

Try this soup recipe from ShroomMind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms (Andrews McMeel, September 2014) by Becky Selengut.

Sweet Potato Soup with Lime Leaves, Beech Mushrooms, Basil, and Peanuts

Serves: 4

Pairing: French Riesling

The beech mushrooms are less the star here and more of a textural element used as a garnish. Because of this, it’s extra important to use homemade mushroom stock (page xxiii) to highlight the mushroom flavor.
This soup started in my mind’s eye somewhere in Thailand (lime leaves, basil) and then—somewhat inexplicably— migrated to West Africa (sweet potatoes, peanuts). This is the perfect kind of soup to serve when it’s raining, you’re snuggled up on the couch with a blanket, a fire is lit, Thai music is playing, and a zebra is running through your living room.

3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small yellow onion, small diced (about 1 cup)
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 pounds orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, peeled and large diced
5 lime leaves (substitute 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest)
¼ cup white wine
5 cups Mushroom Stock (below)
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon fish sauce
7 ounces beech mushrooms, base trimmed and broken apart into bite-size clumps
½ cup lightly packed fresh Thai basil
¹ ³ cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped ⁄
Chili oil (below) or store-bought Asian chili oil, for garnish


In a soup pot over medium-high heat, melt 1½ tablespoons of the coconut oil. After a moment, add the onion and ¼ teaspoon of the salt and sauté for 10 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the sweet potatoes and lime leaves. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn the heat to high, add the wine, and deglaze the pan, scraping up any brown bits. Add the stock, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

Cook until the sweet potato cubes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the vinegar. Remove the lime leaves. Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth, or puree in the pan using an immersion blender. Season with the fish sauce, another ¼ teaspoon salt, and more rice vinegar. If you feel it needs more salt, add more fish sauce (a little at a time). Keep tasting until it’s right for you.

Meanwhile, prepare the beech mushroom mixture. In a large sauté pan over high heat, melt the remaining 1 and ½ tablespoons of coconut oil. After a moment, add the mushrooms and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.

Toss the mushrooms around in the oil, and then spread them out. The idea is to get them to release their liquid and brown quickly. When they brown, stir in the basil and peanuts and transfer to a small bowl.

Serve the soup in wide bowls, garnished with the mushroom mixture and drizzled with some chili oil.

Mushroom Stock:

You will not be sorry you took the time to make your own. As you cook and are busy prepping vegetables and such, e.g., carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, parsley, and thyme, rather than toss or compost the carrot tops and peels, celery ends and leaves, onion ends and cores, shiitake and button stems, thyme and parsley stems, and any other produce bits you collect, save them. (Skip vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, or anything with a dominating flavor or color that you wouldn’t want in a mushroom stock—no beets!)

To make the stock, add these vegetable scraps to a quart-size resealable plastic bag that lives in the freezer. When the bag is full, you are ready to make your stock. At the market, pick up a small onion, some dried porcini, and a handful of fresh shiitake mushrooms. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Drizzle a little high-heat oil on a rimmed baking pan. Throw the shiitakes, along with the chopped-up onion, onto the pan, and toss with the oil. Roast until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a little wine or water, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the pan. Dump the mushrooms and onions, along with the liquid, into a stockpot along with the contents of that freezer bag (no need to thaw) and a few rehydrated pieces of dried porcini (along with the strained soaking liquid). Cover with 3 quarts water, chuck in about 5 peppercorns, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Pour the contents of the pot through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. You should end up with about 2 quarts mushroom stock. Want to make vegetable stock? Do the same thing, but just use fewer mushrooms and more vegetables (and a big flavor bonus if you roast some of the vegetables as you would the shiitake and onion). If you want to make mushroom stock but don’t have a full bag of trimmings in the freezer, just use an assortment of vegetables and mushrooms (equaling roughly 1 quart) and follow the same general procedure. See Video on making mushroom stock...

Chili Peanut Oil:

You can find many varieties of bottled chili oil in Asian markets or online, but it’s ridiculously easy to make a batch from scratch and store it in your fridge. Plus, your homemade oil contains none of the additives and preservatives that are commonly added to the bottled versions.

To make your own, in a small saucepan set over medium heat, combine 1 cup peanut or coconut oil, along with 3 to 5 tablespoons red pepper flakes (see Note). (The quantity will depend on how hot you want the oil to be.) Heat the oil to 300°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and try not to breathe in the fumes!

Let the oil cool to 250°F, and then add 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil and 2 tablespoons minced roasted unsalted peanuts. Transfer to a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Seal the jar, shake it a few times to distribute the ingredients, and leave at room temperature for 2 days. Refrigerate. It will keep for at least 1 month, if not longer, in the fridge.

Note: You can purchase whole dried chiles, toast them in a dry pan until flexible and fragrant, and then buzz them in the food processor, or just use regular bottled red pepper flakes.

(* Recipe reproduced with permission, from Shroom, Mind-Bendingly Good Recipes for Cultivated and Wild Mushrooms -Andrews McMeel, September 2014- by Becky Selengut, Photograph, Clare Barboza)

Love is a New Year's Treat, Praline Hearts from 'Sweet Things' by Annie Rigg

Who said you had to wait until February?

Love is a New Year's Treat from Sweet Things, Chocolates, Candies, Caramels & Marshmallows to Make & Give (Kyle Books, October 2014) by Annie Rigg.

Praline Hearts

I like heart shapes and so for these truffles I set the praline ganache into a shallow pan and stamped out heart shapes in assorted sizes before coating in either milk or dark chocolate.

If you had plastic or silicone heart-shaped molds, you could use those—follow the instructions for creating a chocolate shell on page 51 for the Easter eggs and then fill with the ganache.

Or if you have no inclination to make heart shapes, simply chill the ganache and roll into balls following the instructions for making truffles on page 16.

Makes 20–25

3/4 cup blanched hazelnuts
1⁄3 cup superfine sugar
3 oz dark chocolate (64 percent cocoa solids), chopped
5 oz milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch of salt

To coat

5 oz milk chocolate,
5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon crystallized
roses or sugar sprinkles


8 x 12-inch baking pan
heart-shaped cutters in assorted sizes
disposable piping bag



Preheat the oven to 325°F and line the baking sheet with nonstick parchment paper.

Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 4 minutes until pale golden. Set aside.

Place the superfine sugar in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan with 1 tablespoon water. Melt the sugar over low heat without stirring and use a clean pastry brush dipped in hot water to dissolve any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the pan. Once the sugar has dissolved bring the syrup to a boil and cook steadily until it becomes an amber-colored caramel. Add the hazelnuts to the pan, stir to combine, and then turn out onto a sheet of nonstick parchment paper. Leave to cool completely.

Break the praline into chunks, chop in a food processor until finely ground, and then continue to blend until you have a slightly granular paste, almost like peanut butter. Set aside while you prepare the ganache.

Place the dark and milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the heavy cream, vanilla, and salt and set it over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir frequently until the chocolate has melted into the cream and the ganache is silky smooth.

Remove from the pan and cool for a few minutes before folding in the hazelnut paste. Spoon the ganache into the prepared pan and spread level with an offset spatula. Leave to cool and then cover and chill until firm.

Turn the set ganache out of the pan and peel off the lining paper. Using the heart cutters, stamp out truffles in a variety of sizes and arrange on a clean sheet of parchment paper. Chill again while you prepare the chocolate for the coating.

Follow the instructions for tempering chocolate on page 24. Reserve 1 tablespoon of either the milk or dark chocolate for piping, then on the tines of a dipping or dinner fork, dip the hearts, one at a time, into either chocolate and allow any excess to drip back into the bowl. Carefully place the chocolate-coated hearts on clean parchment paper and decorate with crystallized roses or sprinkles.

Spoon the reserved chocolate into the piping bag, snip the end into a fine point, and pipe decorative lines, swirls, or dots over the hearts. Leave in a cool place until set.

Instructions for making truffles:
Using a teaspoon, scoop the ganache into cherry-sized balls and roll in your hands until smooth. Arrange on a parchment-covered tray and chill again for 15 minutes.

Tempering chocolate:
Put 3 ounces of the remaining chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Pop the tempering thermometer into the chocolate. Melt the chocolate, stirring until it is smooth and the chocolate reaches a temperature of 120°F. Remove the bowl from the pan, add the remaining chocolate, and stir to combine. Leave to cool to a temperature of 80°F, stirring frequently to speed up the cooling process.

Return the bowl to the pan of hot water and reheat the chocolate to 88°F. Please note these temperatures are for dark chocolate only.

Instructions for creating a chocolate shell:

Lay the mold on a large sheet of parchment paper and spoon two-thirds of the melted dark chocolate into the mold, filling all of the egg shapes. Tilt the mold from side to side so that the inside of each egg is evenly coated. Hold the mold over the bowl of melted chocolate and use an offset spatula or dough scraper to scrape the excess chocolate cleanly away and back into the bowl, then turn the mold upside down and leave to drain over the parchment paper, elevating slightly by resting the ends on wooden spoons. Allow the chocolate shells to set until completely solid.


Praline hearts will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week in an airtight box between sheets of parchment paper or waxed paper.

(* Recipe reproduced with permission from Sweet Things, Chocolates, Candies, Caramels & Marshmallows to Make & Give -Kyle Books, October 2014- by Annie Rigg)

Terrasses du Larzac, Obriers de la Peira 2009, Cinsault and Carignane

Leave Montpellier and drive 40 minutes inland towards the hills of Herault and you will find near Saint Saturnin de Lucian the land that brings us this wine, Obriers de la Peira 'Terrasses du Larzac' (2009).

Orbiers de la Peira

This is a blend of Cinsault and Carignane.

Get Your Balanced Eating Mojo Back before New Year's Feast, Thai Wrap Recipe from 'Organic Avenue'

Get your balanced eating mojo back before New Year's feast with this very sensible lunch recipe from Organic Avenue (William Morrow, April 2014) by Denise Mari.

Thai Wrap with Thai Almond Cream and Sweet and Spicy Prune Dipping Sauce

This wrap, at once sweet, spicy, and tangy, is also a good protein source, thanks to the almond
butter and cashews. Collard leaves do make a neat little wrapper—sturdy enough to support a
substantial filling but tender enough to be enjoyed out of hand, a clever way of getting in your
greens, and they are great for folks who are counting their carbs or calories.

The filling and dipping sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, so they can be made ahead and kept ready for rolling your wraps as you’re ready for them.

Makes 4 wraps

Sweet and Spicy Prune Dipping Sauce
(Makes about ¾ cup/180 milliliters)

5 pitted prunes, soaked in water to cover for 2 to 3 hours and drained
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1½ teaspoons tamari
2 teaspoons sesame oil
½ cup (120 milliliters) water
Pinch of salt
4 pinches of red chile flakes

Thai Almond Cream

½ cup (4 ounces/110 grams) almond butter
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1½ teaspoons fresh ginger juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon tamari
½ garlic clove, cut in half
2 tablespoons water


4 large collard green leaves
1 cup (100 grams) shredded cabbage
1 mango, cut in half, pitted, peeled and flesh cut into long, thin strips
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup (50 grams) chopped cashews

Thai Wrap photo

Make the Sweet and Spicy Prune Dipping Sauce:

Combine all the ingredients except the chile flakes in a blender and blend until smooth. Divide the sauce among 4 dipping bowls, add a pinch of chile flakes to each, and set aside.

Make the Thai Almond Cream:

Rinse the blender, then combine all the ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.

Assemble the wraps:

Place a collard leaf bottom side up on a cutting board and using a sharp knife, shave off as much of the thick part of the stem as possible. Spread one quarter of the almond cream over the leaf, leaving a ½-inch (1.25-centimeter) border on all sides. Make a line of one quarter of the cabbage over the bottom third of the collard leaf; above the cabbage, make a line of one quarter of the mango; finish with a line of one quarter of the carrot. Sprinkle with one quarter of the mint, basil, and cilantro. Top with one quarter of the cashews. Working from the end facing you, tightly roll the collard leaf away from you. Place seam side down, tuck in the sides, and cut the wrap in half using a serrated knife. Place on a plate; repeat with the remaining 3 wraps and filling. Place a bowl of dipping sauce on each plate and serve

(* Recipe from Organic Avenue by Denise Mari- William Morrow, April 2014- reproduced with permission)

Travel with Treats, Nidelkuchen, Swiss Brioche Cream Cake from Nick Malgieri 'Pastry'

Rich enough to qualify as a Winter treat, here's an adaptation of a popular Swiss brioche cake recipe from Pastry, Foolproof Recipes for the Home Cook (Kyle Books, September 2014) by Nick Malgieri.

Swiss Brioche Cream Cake (Nidelkuchen) 

This is a specialty of the Konditorei Aebersold in Murten, a charming walled medieval town in Switzerland’s Canton Fribourg. After tasting and speaking with Hans Aebersold about the topping in 2005, I came home and worked out this version.

While the original recipe remains a secret, my efforts got me pretty close. One difference is that the bakery uses a dough similar to a rich white bread, though this brioche dough version certainly makes for a delicate result. This is a great coffeecake to serve for breakfast or brunch.

Makes one 9-inch cake, 8 to 10 servings

1/2 batch Brioche Mousseline Dough (page 184)
1/4 cup crème fraîche or other thick cream
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar

1. Round the dough to a sphere. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes. Butter and spray a 9-inch springform pan, buttering the sides thickly as the topping may run over while baking.

2. Using the floured palm of your hand, press the dough into the prepared pan. If it resists, cover for 10 minutes, then press again. Cover and let the dough proof until about 50 percent thicker, 30 to 40 minutes.

3. After about 20 minutes, set a rack at the middle level in the oven and preheat to 375°F.

4. For the topping, whisk the crème fraîche and yolks together. Use the palm of your hand to gently press an 8-inch round area in the enter of the dough to deflate it, leaving a K-inch thicker rim at the side of the pan all around. Use a small offset spatula to spread the topping to within K inch of the side of the pan. Sprinkle with half the sugar.

5. Place the pan in the oven, decrease the temperature to 350°F and bake for 15 minutes. Open the oven and pull out the rack; quickly sprinkle on the remaining sugar.

6. Bake the cake until well risen and the topping is set and golden, about 20 minutes longer.

7. Cool the cake on a rack, then remove the side of the pan and slide the cake from the base onto a platter. Serve on the day it’s baked.


Brioche Mousseline Dough

This is a richer, softer, and in some ways lighter dough than the brioche recipes in BAKE! and BREAD. Use it for a standard or round loaf baked in a pan or for any of the brioche roll variations on page 186. Softer and stickier than a leaner brioche dough, it’s a little difficult to handle but don’t let that stop you from trying it. Flour the palms of your hands rather than the work surface or the dough and you’ll have no problems forming the dough. No matter what size or shape pan you choose, it will look appealing and taste even better.

Makes 2 pounds/900 grams, enough for 15 to 18 individual brioches depending on the size of the
molds used or 1 large or 2 smaller loaves baked in loaf or round pans

2 tablespoons/25 grams sugar
2 and 1/4 teaspoons/1 envelope/7 grams fine granulated active dry or instant yeast
1/2 cup/75 grams whole milk, scalded and cooled to 100°F
4 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups/400 grams unbleached bread flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)
1 teaspoon/6 grams fine sea salt
8 ounces/2 sticks/225 grams unsalted butter, softened

1. Stir the sugar and yeast together in the bowl for a stand mixer, then whisk in the cooled milk. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk again. Whisk in the eggs.

2. Use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour, making sure not to leave any in the bottom of the bowl or stuck to its sides.

3. Using the dough hook, beat the dough on the lowest speed until it comes together but isn’t completely smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

4. Mix again on low-medium speed and sprinkle in the salt. Add the butter in 8 or 10 separate pieces, then let the dough mix until it completely absorbs the butter and becomes smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 5 minutes. If the dough doesn’t absorb the butter easily, stop and scrape down the bowl and dough hook every couple of minutes.
Once you see that the butter is on its way to being completely absorbed, increase the
speed to medium for about 1 minute.

5. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl, turn it over so that the top is buttered, and cover with plastic wrap. Let ferment until it doubles in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature.

6. Once the dough has fermented, scrape onto a floured surface and give it a turn: Press the dough into a fat disk and fold one side over the center, then fold the other side over both. Roll the dough down from the top to form an uneven sphere. Place the dough back in the bowl (butter the top again if necessary) seam side down and cover again.

7. Refrigerate the dough for a couple of hours or until it rises again and then chills down. It’s now ready to use. You can leave the dough in the refrigerator overnight, but you should bake it within 18 hours of beginning to mix it.

(* Recipe reproduced with permission from Pastry, Foolproof Recipes for the Home Cook -Kyle Books, September 2014- by Nick Malgieri, Photographs by Romulo Yanes)

Side Ideas, Jack Be Little Pumpkin and Polenta Souffle from 'Farm Fork Food' by Eric Skokan

Need side ideas as in side dishes that is, here's  a vegetarian option from Farm, Fork, FoodA Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm (Kyle Books, October 2014) by Eric Skokan of Black Cat, a Boulder (Colorado) farm to table bistro.

Jack Be Little Pumpkin and Polenta Souffle 

Roasted heirloom pumpkin and a ragout of mushrooms fill a soufflé dish, which is topped with a soufflé made from polenta. With the addition of Parmesan and sautéed Brussels sprouts, this entrée is a showstopper. The Jack Be Little pumpkins are themselves a fun stand-in for a basic soufflé dish. Other possible varieties include acorn, delicata and dumpling squashes. If those are not available, butternut squash makes a fine substitute.

Serves 4

8 Jack Be Little pumpkins
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 medium onion, sliced
¼ cup minced garlic
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons softened butter, plus more for sautéeing
6 sprigs fresh thyme
1¼ cups cornmeal or polenta
1½ cups whole milk
4 bay leaves
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
3 cups Brussels sprouts, separated into leaves


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Cut the tops from the pumpkins. Remove and discard the seeds and pulp from the cavities. Dress the pumpkins and tops with 1 tablespoon of the oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large sauté pan over high heat, combine the mushrooms, onion, garlic and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the pan to remove any browned bits. Add the butter and thyme, season with salt and set aside off the heat.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the cornmeal, 1 quart water and milk, stirring very well to hydrate the cornmeal. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to low. Add the bay leaves and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is very thick and the cornmeal is very soft. Add the cream and nutmeg, season with salt and stir well. Transfer the polenta to a large bowl and let cool. Add the egg yolks and mix well to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the polenta mixture in thirds without overmixing—a few loose streaks of egg white is fine.

Divide the mushrooms and onions among the roasted pumpkins, filling the cavities. Top with the polenta mixture until the pumpkins are full.

Bake until the polenta is set and the soufflés have risen, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over high heat, sauté the Brussels sprouts in a bit of butter until the leaves just begin to color, about 6 minutes. Season with salt.

Divide the pumpkins among four dinner plates. Garnish with the Brussels sprouts and pumpkin tops and serve immediately.

(Recipe reproduced with permission from Farm, Fork, FoodA Year of Spectacular Recipes Inspired by Black Cat Farm -Kyle Books, October 2014- by Eric Skokan, Photography: Con Poulos)