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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Perfect Peppermint Platter!

With this recipe for peppermint platters, you really can even eat the dishes! Now, I don't know the extent of Willy Wonka's involvement with this spectacular eye and mouth candy--all I know is what a little bird from told me! Use your platter to serve bite-sized desserts, such as festively wrapped holiday chocolates (as I did), pile up a of batch of brownies--or smash it on the kitchen counter top and nibble on the pieces during the marathon showing of A Christmas Story.

The link is here with the recipe in a sprawling slideshow format but I've assembled it quite neatly below for your holiday enjoyment.

Peppermint Platter
Special items: you will need a 9" springform pan for this as well as a sheet of parchment paper

1 bag peppermint candies of the Starlight variety (60 or so pieces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. While oven is heating up, unwrap the candies and place (1/4" apart?) into springform pan lined with parchment paper. Make sure all of the candy is resting on the paper. I would recommend first drawing a circle on the paper using the pan bottom as a guide to create the circle before evenly lining the base of the pan with it. Place in oven for 6-8 minutes, until candy has melted. Do keep an eye on this, depending on the reliability of your oven! LET COOL COMPLETELY. Push base of springform pan from bottom to release your peppermint platter and ease parchment off of it, gently pulling it off (should come off very easily).

Here's the platter, simple  and unadorned. And oh, so tasty too!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Friend Writes...Where's the Beef?

In Pittsburgh, there are apparently many mysteries--just ask Michael Chabon about his marvelous book, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh--however, this simply made, hearty beef stew from Pittsburgh is not among them. If you have a mind to, check out The Odd, Mysterious & Fascinating History of Pittsburgh page on facebook (where my friend found this recipe), and here's a link to what some may consider a variation of this preparation that I made, the French Boeuf a la Bourguignonne from Julia Child's The French Chef Cookbook

In the meantime, say hello to Pittsburgh's own television host Kay Neumann!

Kay Neumann's Beef Stew
1 tablespoon shortening (we used canola oil)
1 1/2 pounds lean beef, cubed (about 1/2 to 3/4 inches thick)
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 small-medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 cup carrots, sliced (about 2 or 3)
1 1/2 cups potatoes, diced or cut (we diced about 3 medium potatoes in 1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup celery, sliced (about 1 stalk)
Place the flour in a deep bowl. Add the beef and toss to coat. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the beef and cook until beef is browned (stir almost constantly so the flour won’t clump). Add the water, chopped onions and remaining ingredients except the vegetables. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour. Add the vegetables and cook another hour.
Note alternative: After the beef was browned, some people added all remaining ingredients, including the vegetables. Cook the stew, stirring occasionally on low to medium until the vegetables were soft, about 1 1/2 hours.

Do enjoy!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Shouldn't You Just...? Words to the Dog Walker

In Friendship Fog, our hero Clifford Bowles--the ultra-fabulous mogul who helms the Divine Living omni-media empire--offers a few words pulled from his monthly column. Download the ebook or find my novel in hardcover and paperback at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes. Do enjoy!

by Clifford Bowles

Mr. Bowles offers his advice on modern etiquette.
  • Discourage your pets from soaking others’ garbage with their urine streams? If only to lessen the work of the sanitation engineer?

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In The Kitchen with Jacks--Spaghetti with Avocado Sauce

As we just made our first meal together, I'd like to introduce our IOHR rescue 3-year old terrier mix, Jackpot! She's guarding a pig ear (well, sort of) seen in the photo above, Waldo. Maybe we should call her Waldo.

Now, while it is ill-advised to feed avocado to a dog, I have no problem scooping a bunch of chips into some really good guacamole made tableside in a lava rock vessel (molcajete, si?), or setting up a sliced avocado salad with grapefruit on a bed of peppery arugula greens tossed in a light shallot vinaigrette. So it was an obvious temptation to attempt this delicious pasta dish with avocado--and so quickly prepared! Jacks was a perfect pet throughout all of it, observing out of harm's way from her fleecy dog bed--but alas she had to stick to her Orijen adult dog food (comprised of "free-run chicken, turkey, wild-caught fish & nest-laid eggs") while I stuck a fork in my swirls of pasta lightly coated with a creamy, pleasantly green, guilt-free avocado sauce. Garnish freely with parsley as that is something your dog can certainly try!

Spaghetti with Avocado Sauce
Serves 6-8
Adapted from

12 oz spaghetti
2 avocados, halved pitted and peeled
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 bunch scallions
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente, 6-8 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the avocados, garlic, scallions, lemon juice and olive oil until smooth.

When the pasta is tender, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the reserved water to the avocado mixture and process until smooth.

Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, portion the pasta onto plates and garnish with parsley.

Do enjoy, and well, arf! Thanks for the help, Jacks!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pear Galette

In A Well-Seasoned Appetite, Molly O'Neill's collection of  "recipes from an American kitchen," she wrote about her dissatisfaction with pears for not being apples. I've always believed O'Neill was stating that while she was quite pleased by pears, she simply wished that they weren't gritty, and rather that they were also as tingly crisp as apples. While I wholeheartedly agree, I had no problem taking a bite out of this recipe for pear galette and quickly scarfed down (winter time, get it?) two slices. But to round out the point in a way, I do however find quince to be a kindly considered hybrid of apples and pears, respecting both parties.

This dessert is elegant and designed to impress but honestly it's not even that difficult and moves along pleasantly. Just have your frangipane ingredients all measured out for convenience sake, and use care when dealing with the delicate business of slicing the pears. Work quickly too, so your pie dough doesn't lose its vigor before being transferred to the rimmed baking sheet (or pie dish, as I used).

Edges brushed with egg wash before going into the oven...

While making my galette, quite by happenstance, Laura Nyro  sang out on my stereo, "...marzipan sweet bakin out in December..." How rich! (while frangipane and marzipan do have their differences, the lyric was certainly apropos enough here) for sour cream on that? Extra jam topping? I'd be delighted!

The recipe for Pear Galette below and the direct link with a more printer-friendly page is here.

From the Williams-Sonoma test kitchen:

Pear Galette

For the frangipane:
1 1/2 cups (6 oz./185 g) sliced almonds
2/3 cup (5 oz./155 g) sugar
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1  tsp. almond extract
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted 

3 firm but ripe pears, preferably Comice or Anjou

1 batch Basic Pie Dough
1 egg beaten with 2 tsp. water
1/4 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) apricot jam 

Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 425°F (220°C).

To make the frangipane, in a food processor, combine the almonds, sugar and salt and process until the almonds are finely ground. Add the eggs, vanilla and almond extracts and melted butter and process until the mixture comes together. Set aside.

Cut the pears in half through the stem end and remove the cores with a melon baller. Slice the pears very thinly vertically, stopping 1/2 inch (12 mm) from the stem so the pear slices stay attached at the stem end.

On a sheet of parchment paper, roll out the pie dough into a round 13 inches (33 cm) in diameter and about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick. Trim off any ragged edges to make an even 12-inch (30-mm) round.

Evenly spread the frangipane over the dough, leaving a 2-inch (5-cm) border uncovered. Fan the pears in a decorative pattern on top of the frangipane, cutting the pear halves in half vertically if necessary to make them fit. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the filling, forming loose pleats all around the edge and leaving the center open. Using the sheet of parchment paper, transfer the galette and parchment to a rimmed baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the galette with the egg wash.

Bake the galette until the pears are tender when pierced with a knife and the crust is golden brown, 50 to 55 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the galette is cooling, in a small saucepan over low heat, warm the jam until it is liquefied. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve set over a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the top of the tart with a thin coating of the jam. Cut the galette into slices and serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8. 

The Frisky Fitzy Cocktail

At a recent gathering, our friend cuddled up to this cozy cocktail, at once enlivened and enveloped by its warming blanket. Shouldn't you just feel out the Frisky Fitzy and try it on for size this season? It's a peach!

Frisky Fitzy
(Serves 1)

3 parts peach cider (or apple cider with peach juice)
1 part Rough Rider Bourbon (any good Bourbon you have at home or that strikes your fancy will certainly do)

Gently warm your peach cider. Temper a sturdy, capacious cocktail glass of choice with a few shots of warm water, then spill out before adding in warmed cider. Perhaps use a hammered copper mug instead and warm the cider right in it, stove top, over a low flame. Pour in your Bourbon, coddle it gently in a swirling fashion with a deft wrist, garnish as you like (bruleed orange slice? candy cane? cinnamon stick?) and serve. Your guests are sure to warm up to you as well!

Do enjoy!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Turkey Chili & Wine Engagement

Having squeezed the life out of the Gourmet November/2008 issue for our Thanksgiving menu, we found yet another recipe to duly dispatch of our near-to-ragged carcass: our unsuspecting turkey (shown above) was about to be turned into turkey chili! What a cozy Saturday afternoon too, just around ten of us, lazing about with wine glasses in hand with forkfuls of satisfying chili in the other. Perfectly paired reds included a Temperanillo, Sangiovese and Malbec--the white was a single unoaked Chardonnay-Viognier blend from Languedoc. Aromas of The Spice House's mulling spices with apple and peach cider further filled the room (and some of  it went down with a shot of Bourbon here and there, but more on that later) as we made another go of the festive feasting holiday.

Turkey Chili
Makes 6 to 8 servings (We doubled this by using more beans* and another can of whole tomatoes and good thing too—the 10 of us couldn’t stop eating!)

1 large white onion, coarsely chopped
2 bell peppers (any color), cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
2 teaspoon packed brown sugar
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in juice
1 (19-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup water
2 cups cooked turkey, cut into 1-inch pieces
*We added in a can of cannellini beans. The addition of 1 TB cumin, 1 TB garlic powder and 1 tsp or so Penzey’s chipotle powder turned out to be essential!

Cook onion and peppers in oil in a heavy medium pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Add spices and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice, breaking them up with back of a spoon, then add beans, water, and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer, covered, 15 minutes.
Stir in turkey and let stand, covered, until heated through, 5 minutes. 

We let the chili sit in the refrigerator overnight, brought our pot to room temperature the next day and let it simmer back to full heat for about an hour. Serve with shredded Mexican cheeses, sour cream, limes, tortilla chips and Fritos!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cheese Fondue in a Pumpkin & Other Delights

Gourmet magazine was most regrettably retired back in 2008. I however, fortunately, was not. For it was there, in the final November 2008 issue (I have another gruesomely sentimental copy still wrapped in the plastic, cuddling next to my beloved Gourmet 70's back issue stash) that I culled together this year's Thanksgiving menu (links provided here by yours truly). And what a wonderful, Dickensian feast in merrie olde England it seemed, once all laid out on the table! Most of it was made the day before (at least in parts), and other delights subtly assembled while the turkey that Baby prepared sat to consider its satsuma tangerine-and-herb-stuffed cavity, at rest. Summoning motes of clarity, I set the table two days before.

Cunning coriander and rosemary goat cheese marbles skewered with parsley leaves were a cozy nibble...

before the great pumpkin fondue arrived, filled with layers of mixed Emmental and gruyere cheeses, a light bechamel, and sturdy slices of miche country bread. We swooned and supped laudably and audibly too over the instantly comforting innards, ladled out into our bowls, with spooned crescents of pumpkin pulled from within for (very) good measure. This was very simple to prepare, except for the careful business of slicing off the stubborn tops. Short of procuring a reciprocating saw, the only thing I might suggest is taking hold of your strongest, most resilient knife (probably a well-sharpened butcher's knife) as I did and nimbly hacking away at the beast with a few deliberate whacks. Although this particular recipe was on the Thanksgiving roster, it will serve you and your guests well anytime through the winter months and act as a wonderful gift for Christmas, tableside. Consider my chicken pot pie in a pumpkin as well, always a favorite!

We paused with a smartly civilized watercress salad with smoked sable (a.k.a. black cod, found at our local bagel place) and beets, diced and stacked like a terrine on top of the green watercress sprigs. The beets marinated overnight in a tart shallot and fresh grapefruit juice (my idea, instead of lemon juice) vinaigrette.

The traditional pork pie course made its way...

highly suited for sopping up with our gravy (see turkey recipe below). I made the pork pies a week ahead of time and froze them--as I suggest you do too--and thawed them out the night before our dinner, back into the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Behold our Tom! Quite carved obviously, having been injected with white wine, and melted black truffle butter (a mixture of purchased black truffle paste with butter), the recipe road map here! Tinker with it as you will. More about tending to old Tom is found here, during our trip to Turks and Caicos a few years ago.

Amiable sides were comprised of our compote, with red pearl onions, quince (I used quince paste!) and fresh cranberries...

Also added to our festive mix was a trio featuring mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables (thanks super duper delivery service Fresh Direct!) and a stunningly seductive, silken parsnip puree with sauteed Brussels sprouts that I made myself.

Gourmet suggests an apple granita as a palate cleansing kick-off to dessert but we found a time-saving, luscious Italian pear sorbetti instead, and certainly any brightly tart fruit sorbet will tingle the taste buds to the same effect.

Desserts were unapologetically store-bought pumpkin and pecan pies (courtesy again of Fresh Direct). Our merry band politely nibbled only, as we had naturally become as stuffed as our turkeys, and quite without apology as well at that! I urge you to try all of these terrific recipes over the upcoming months, whatever the occasion--and do enjoy!