This week, I wrote about my decidedly anti baker stance when it comes to holiday entertaining and my savory sweet solution to ending a festive meal. Grab a copy of the Oak Leaves to check out my recipe for blueberry-cherry compote for goat cheese, but read below to make my bacon and apricot and cranberry rosemary compotes! Your holiday table will be better for it!
Brie Cheese with Cranberry-Rosemary Compote and Pecans
1-16oz Bag fresh cranberries
1 Cup White sugar
½ Cup White wine
1-2 Sprigs of rosemary, needs removed and chopped
1 Large strip of Orange Zest pierced with 1 whole clove
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves and cranberries begin to pop. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until nearly all berries have burst. Remove the orange peel and discard. Transfer the cranberry compote to a clean 16oz mason jar. Cover and allow compote to come to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. Serve with crackers or Crostini as a topping for Brie Cheese. Garnish with toasted pecans and rosemary sprigs.
Cheddar Cheese with Bacon, Apricot and Mustard Compote
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
6 Slices of bacon, chopped
½ Large Yellow onion, sliced
1 ½ Cups Dried apricots, chopped
1/3 Cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Yellow mustard seeds
2 Tablespoons Whole grain mustard
1/3 Cup White wine
2 Tablespoons Cider vinegar
Put the olive oil, bacon and onions in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently until bacon is crisp and onions are tender. Add the remaining ingredients, reduce head to medium-low, and cook until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens. Transfer the bacon-apricot compote to a clean 16oz mason jar. Cover and allow compote to come to room temperature. Refrigerate for up to one week. Serve with crackers or crostini as a topping for cheddar cheese. Garnish with green apple slivers.
Last week I was considering how much I love a good gin and tonic. My summery cocktail musings had something to with planting all of my garden flowers and filling my my deck with containers full of fresh herbs and blooms. Before I knew it my feet were up after a hard day's work and I was sipping a lovely Hendrick's cocktail and savoring some easy seafood. It was a lovely pairing; gin and seafood get along beautifully. Look for my instructions on how to make a memorable gin and tonic and homemade cocktail sauce in the paper next week, but in the meantime feel free to whip up a few of these oysters and kick back on your own deck this week-end!
6 Oysters Scrubbed and Shucked, liquor reserved
1t Fennel Seeds
1/2 t Chili Flakes
1/4 Basil Chiffonade
1T Sliced Scallions
1/2 C Grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano
1/2 C Buttered Breadcrumbs (1/2 C breadcrumbs mixed with 1T melted butter)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet pan with a sheet of crumpled aluminum foil (the peaks and valleys will hold the oysters in place) and place 6 oyster in the half shell on the foil taking care not to loose the liquor(discard the tops of the shell). Sprinkle the fennel, chili, basil and scallions evenly over the oysters. Mix the cooled buttered bread crumbs with the cheese and season lightly with salt and pepper. Distribute the crumb topping evenly over the seasoned oysters. Place the pan in the preheated oven for 8 minutes or until crumbs are golden and oysters are warmed through , but remain tender. Garnish with basil, scallions or parsley. Serve as part of a summer seafood pairing for gin based cocktails.
Last week, my column, Out of Mel's Kitchen, featured a recipe for a Mexican spiced Southern Pimento Cheese spread suitable for filling cucumbers or topping crackers. The spread is a riff on a popular southern staple and comes together quickly . It has a notably long shelf life and consequently is a perfect snack to keep on hand for unexpected guests and spur of the moment gatherings.
Yesterday, for Cinco de Mayo/Kentucky derby soiree, I took my basic poblano laden spread and used it to create an ooey-gooey and decadent cheese toast worthy of serving at any casual party.
To create your own Polano Cheese Toasts simply follow my basic recipe (HERE) to make the spread. When you are ready to indulge in a little cheesy goodness, preheat the broiler on low setting for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, slice a baguette into 3/4 " thick slices and broil, grill or toast the bread until golden brown. Cool the bread and mound some of the Southern Pimento Cheese Spread onto the toast taking care to mound the spread in the center and taper to the edges.
Place the topped toasts 1" from the heat and broil until cheese bubbles and turns spotty brown on top. Garnish warm toasts with pepitas and cilantro if desired. Serve immediately.
A few weeks ago I had the distinct privilege to cook a meal for eight extraordinary women. Their general awesomeness inspired me to to create a composed salad in their honor. Heavy herbal notes and hearty textures made this salad a seasonal sensation that honored eight goddesses in my life.
The salad featured a vase made from paper thin cucumber that hide a nugget of lavender infused goat cheese. I filled the vase with baby kale, blanched asparagus, yellow pepper, broccoli sprouts and chives. Pistachio nuts and a small pool of green dressing rounded out the dish. In my estimation the my Green Goddess Salad came as close as possible to being good enough to serve my bevy of goddesses!
Green Goddess Dressing
3/4 C Buttermilk
1/2 C Light Mayo
1/4 C Sour Cream
1 Garlic clove
1/4 t Coarse black pepper
3/4 C Italian parsley, chopped
1/4 C Chives, chopped
2T Tarragon, chopped
1T Lemon juice
salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth (about 30 seconds). Dressing can be refrigerated for up to two days.
My column this week focuses on Chinese New Year and all of the delectable dishes that come along with honoring this special holiday! Check out my basic recipe HERE and be sure to view the GALLERY to see step by step instructions for simple instructions for folding the dumplings. Once you've learned the basic technique behind my Year of Dragon Dumplings you can begin playing around with fillings and garnishes like a kitchen pro! In the photo above I took the basic dumpling recipe from the link above and presented them with a fermented black bean sauce, chili green beans, oranges, and crispy shallots; with a few simple steps it is easy to take a basic recipe and elevate it. Check out the variations on my recipe below and mix and match the recipes to create your own signature Year of the Dragon Dumplings.
Fillings (choose one):
Pork: Recipe here.
Shrimp: 1/2 Lb raw shrimp (peeled and deveined), 6 water chestnuts chopped, 1T brown sugar, 2t minced ginger, 1t minced garlic,1/4 t white pepper, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t rice wine vinegar, 1t cornstarch. Pulse the ingredients in a food processor and proceed with filling the wontons.
Chicken: 1/2 Lb ground chicken, 1/2 C shredded steamed carrots, 2T minced bamboo shoot, 1/2 t minced garlic, 1/2 egg white, 2t cornstarch, 1t sesame oil, 1/4t white pepper, 1/2 t salt, 2T sliced scallions. Pulse the ingredients in a food processor and proceed with filling the wontons.
Lamb: 1/2 Lb ground lamb, zest of 1 clementine, 2t fresh ginger, 1/2 t minced garlic, 1T Scotch,1/4t Chinese Five Spice Powder, 1t cornstarch, Salt and Pepper. Pulse the ingredients in a food processor and proceed with filling the wontons.
Veggie: 12 oz spinach, 1t minced fresh ginger, 1/2 t minced garlic, salt, pepper, 7 re-hydrated wood ear mushrooms chopped, salt, pepper, 1/2 t sesame oil, and 1t cornstarch. Saute the spinach in a little canola oil until begining to wilt. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Drain and squeeze liquid from spinach mixture and mix in the remaining ingredients. Proceed with filling the wontons.
Sauces (choose one):
Orange Soy: Combine 1C Soy, 1/3 C Orange Juice, and 2T brown sugar in a small sause pan. Heat until sugar dissolves and cool. Add 1/2 t sesame oil and 1/4t orange zest. Serve at room temp. Keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.
Sweet and Spicy: Combine 1 C Vinegar and 1 C Sugar in a small sauce pan. Heat to boiling. When sugar dissolves add 1C sugar. When second cup of sugar dissolves reduce heat and add 1t salt. Simmer gently for 4 -6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2T chili garlic sauce. Serve at room temp. Keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge.
Fermented Black Bean*: 1t canola oil, 1/2 t minced ginger, 1/4 C crushed fermented black beans, 1/2 C soy sauce, 1/4 C Hoisin sauce, 1/2-3/4 C water. Heat the oil in a small sauce pan. Add the ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in the beans, soy and hoisin. Mix well and heat through. Add enough water to control for texture and salt levels. *Fermented black beans are found in Asian markets; the highly sticky beans should not be confused with common grocery store black beans.
Pickled Ginger: 1/2 C Rice Wine Vinegar, 1/4 C Olive Oil, 2T 2T chopped pickled ginger, 3T chopped cilantro, 1/4 C diced red pepper. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Store Bought Sauces: Sriracha, Soy Sauce, Chili Garlic Sauce, Chili Oil, Sesame Oil
Toppings (choose one or two):
Cucumber Relish: Heat 1 C sugar and 1C vinegar in a small sauce pan until sugar dissolves. Cool to room temperature. Pour the dressing over 1 halved and thinly sliced cucumber and 1/2 C shredded carrot. Refrigerate over night. Add 1/4 C chopped cilantro and 1/4 C chopped peanuts just before serving.
Chili Beans: 1/4 Lb Green Beans (trimmed), 1T peanut oil, salt and pepper, 1/2t minced garlic, 1/2t fresh ginger, minced, 1 T Chili-Garlic Sauce. Heat the peanut oil in a skillet until very hot. Throw in the beans and cook, shaking the pan occasionally until spotty brown. Add the ginger and 1/4 C water. Cover the pan and reduce the heat. Cook 3 minutes. Remove lid, increase the heat and cook until liquid evaporates and beans wrinkle. Remove from pan to a bowl. Toss in chili-garlic sauce.
Shallot Rings: 3 shallots, peeled, sliced and toss with flour. Heat peanut oil in a shallow pan until hot. Fry shallots until golden and crispy.
Garlic Chips: Peel six garlic cloves and thinly slice. Heat peanut oil in a shallow pan until hot. Fry garlic chips until golden and crispy. Serve the chips with the oil.
Assorted Un-cooked Toppings: orange segments, scallions, shredded cabbage, chive flowers, cilantro, black and white sesame seeds, serrano chili slices, and pea shoots.
Some of my favorite combinations include:
Shrimp, sweet and spicy, dash of soy, garlic chips and pea shoots
Chicken, orange soy, cucumber relish, dash of sriracha, cilantro
Veggie, pickled ginger, shredded cabbage, black sesame and serrano
chicken, sweet and spicy, golden garlic, chive flowers, soy