Aug 22 2013

Cheese Soufflé

Published by Christine under Vegetarian

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the soufflé has the reputation of being the most difficult thing for a home cook to make. Mention making that dish to anyone, and you’ll typically get the kind of look that conveys either admiration for your culinary savoir-faire or deep concern for your mental state. Well, I dare say you need be neither über-skilled nor prescription-ready to take to the kitchen and get started.

A French invention of the late 18th century, the soufflé (literally, “puffed up”) can be made savory or sweet. It is essentially composed of two elements: a custard or thick béchamel base, and stiffly beaten eggs whites. The base provides the flavor while the egg whites provide the lift. Fold the two together carefully, bake for 20 to 30 minutes, and you’re done. The only trick to serving a soufflé is this: make sure your dinner guests are ready to eat, and seated at the table, because as lovely and impressive as this dish looks coming right out of the oven, it will begin to deflate within a minute of being served. In other words, this is not the kind of meal you can bake in advance.

The recipe I’m offering today comes courtesy of my sister Catherine, who sent it to me while on one of her many jaunts through France this summer. The original calls for Bleu d’Auvergne, a pungent and buttery blue cheese from the south-central region of France (and one of my very favorite cheeses). I did not have any Bleu, so I substituted it with the delicious Stilton that was in my fridge. You could use Roquefort, Gorgonzola, an aged goat cheese, or even some shredded hard cheese such as Comté. The trick is to use something flavorful – a bland mozzarella would not do.

Making the soufflé could not be easier: melt butter, add flour, cook for a minute, whisk in milk and spices, and let that thicken for a few minutes. Mix in cheese and egg yolks. When cooled a bit, fold in beaten egg whites, and bake. That’s it. Nothing to be scared of, right?

Good. Now, it’s your turn:


Soufflé au Stilton

3 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 additional egg white
2 Tbsp butter
3.5 Tbsp flour
1 cup warm milk
2 oz cheese (Stilton or other blue)
a dash of nutmeg
a few grinds of pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to F400. Butter and flour four 4″ ramequins.

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk. Let the mixture thicken over medium heat, stirring constantly. When thick, add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add cubed cheese and mix well until melted. Whisk in egg yolks and remove from heat. Let cool about 10-15 minutes.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Carefully fold into cheese mixture. Pour into ramequins, filling to about 80% full.

Leave some room at the top for the soufflé to rise.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately, with a green salad and a glass of cold, crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc. Watch your guests ooh and aah. Didn’t I tell you it was easy?

Puffy and light

Golden brown

Careful, it's hot!


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Aug 18 2013


Published by Christine under Uncategorized

My friend Sheryl and I attended two wedding receptions over the past 3 weeks (in her words, we’re now professional wedding guests), and while munching on some delicious appetizers before dinner, she mentioned that she was dying to host a cocktail party, where small bites, as opposed to a large meal, take center stage. One only has to mention the word party, and I’m there. Thus I volunteered my house for the gathering, we soon picked a Saturday, and before anyone could say “I need a refill on my Sauvignon Blanc,” we had a tapas party in the works.

Tapas (Spanish for appetizers) can be as simple or as elaborate as you want them to be, the point of serving tapas being that it encourages informal conversation and mingling in a way that a sit-down meal might not. Tapas bars have become quite popular here over the years, their menu typically a long list of small plates designed to be shared. Truth be told, this has long been my preferred way to eat. I enjoy variety, and at restaurants, I would much rather order two or three appetizer-sized items than a large plate.

For our gathering, we asked our friends to bring something to share, thereby ensuring a variety of things to enjoy. For my part, I prepared canapés of foie gras on homemade brioche with fig chutney; marinated mushrooms served on toasted baguette; and a large pressed roasted vegetable and mozzarella sandwich, cut and served in small pieces

Fig Chutney: sweet and tangy, with just a little bit of heat; the perfect foil for foie gras or goat cheese.

Foie gras canapés

One of my favorite things to eat, bar none

Roasted veg sandwich; perfect for a party or picnic - recipe follows

Our friends brought a variety of delicious bites, from ceviche to patatas bravas to goat cheese crostinis and more:

Potatoes with bravas sauce and a delicious aioli

Pesto and goat cheese? Yes, please!

The OMG factor in these tartlets goes to 11.

Spicy chickpea salad - I could not stop eating it.

Fantastic ceviche - and there's none left... {sobbing}

No tapas party would be complete without sangria.

For dessert, I made green tea sablés topped with a citrus and white chocolate cream and sesame nougatine (recipe – in French – here), and one of our younger guests made decadent and ridiculously good cookies topped with coconut. Our friend Janet made a beautiful key lime pie, which was so delicious it was unfortunately gone before I had a chance to take a picture of it.

The contrast in flavors and textures makes this dessert a real winner.

Seven layer cookies, which were named 'slutty brownies' for the evening.

The evening weather was wonderful, the company fabulous, the food elegant and delicious – what a great party we had! I can’t wait to do it again!

And now, by popular request:


Roasted vegetable sandwich

1 ciabatta bread, cut in half lengthwise
1 eggplant, cut in 1″ round slices
2 medium zucchinis, cut in 1″ lengthwise slices
1 large tomato, sliced
sliced fresh mozzarella
fresh basil
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried italian herbs, or a mix of thyme, oregano and rosemary
1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
pepper to taste

Whisk together the OJ, olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and herbs. In a large bowl, drizzle this marinade over the eggplant a zucchini and toss to coat. Let this sit about 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat your barbecue grill.

Slice tomato and place over paper towels. Sprinkle some salt over the slices and let them render water while you prepare the other vegetables.

Grill eggplant and zucchini over medium high heat, about 5 minutes on each side until soft and done. They should be lightly charred on the outside. Toast the bread over indirect heat on the grill. Note: you could also use peppers and mushrooms here. Let your taste guide your choice of vegetables to grill.

Once the bread and vegetables are done and cool enough to handle, assemble the sandwich:

Whisk the garlic in the leftover marinade, and drizzle over both pieces of bread. Place basil leaves on bottom piece of bread to cover. Next, layer slices of mozzarella, followed by tomato slices (patted dry with paper towels). Finally, layer eggplant and zucchini on the bread, and cover with top piece of bread. This will be a very thick sandwich.

Place a heavy pan on top of the sandwich to press it down for 15 to 30 minutes. The juices from the vegetables will run into the bread (and on your counter as well, so make sure you place a towel under the sandwich to catch some of this), and the flavors will blend to create a vegetarian delight.


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Aug 09 2013

Silky Kale and Roasted Garlic Soup

Published by Christine under Soups,Vegetarian

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s summer, and you want us to make what?”

Truth be told, it has cooled down a bit up here in the Northeast, so soup isn’t a total aberration. On top of which, I hold firm to the belief that there is never a bad time for soup. In fact, I remember my paternal grandfather eating it winter like summer, boiling hot as it were (the soup and/or the weather). My cousin Nina, at whose house I spent many a wonderful summer as a child, also made a big pot of vegetable and tapioca soup every Sunday of the year, to be served at dinner for the remainder of the week.

Today’s offering (which I got here) contains two of my favorite things: kale and garlic. Actually, make that three of my favorite things: kale, garlic, and potatoes. And nobody expects Spanish smoked paprika in soup, do they?


But I digress. There are a whopping three heads of garlic in this soup, which will probably seem like overkill to most, but note that this is roasted garlic, which has an altogether very different taste. It is in fact sweet and smooth, and has none of the bite (and breath-slaying power) of fresh garlic. It marries exceedingly well with kale and creamy potatoes, and once processed through a blender, the mélange is nothing short of glorious. It is made even more appealing by the addition of Pimentón de la Vera, which gives the soup its beautiful golden color and very subtle smoky flavor. I recommend you procure some of this, although you could substitute regular paprika.

Smoked paprika, the secret weapon in this recipe

I served a poached egg on top of each bowl of soup, for a light yet entirely satisfying meal. I can’t wait to make this again, no matter what the weather does!


Silky Kale and Roasted Garlic Soup

4 cups kale, trimmed, washed and sliced
3 heads garlic, whole
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced and carefully washed
1 cup diced potato (any will work here, but russet is best)
6 cups broth or water
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 to 3 bay leaves
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by roasting the garlic in a 375 oven. Remove as much of the outer skins from the garlic heads as you can. With a large knife, trim about 1/4 off the top to expose the cloves, and place all three heads of garlic on a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil on top, close the foil around tightly, and bake for about 75 minutes. The garlic will be done when it is soft and looks golden. Let it sit until cool enough to hold.


Now ready to be used.

In a dutch oven over medium-low heat, sauté the leeks, rosemary and bay leaves in 2 Tsbp olive oil, until the leeks soften (about 5 minutes). Add potatoes and paprika. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the garlic heads (it will come out very easily) directly into the pan. Sauté for a few more minutes. Add broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen all the delicious bits that have stuck there. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat, and let it simmer until the potatoes are done, another 10-12 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, and puree the soup in a blender (or use an immersion blender directly in the soup pot). Be careful not to burn yourself, please; I would feel guilty if you did.

Return soup to the pot, add kale and cook until kale is wilted, another 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with (or without) a poached egg on top, some warm crusty bread, and prepare to be amazed at how good life is.

Soup with egg = complete, delicious meal.


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