Monday, November 17, 2014

Amuse Bouche

Amuse Bouche Graphic.jpg
The holiday (party) season is almost upon us! One of the best parties I ever threw consisted of a bunch of small appetizers - amuse bouche, in French. It means ‘entertain the mouth’. I love this idea because it didn’t require me to make a big meal or provide seating around a table, so I was able to invite more ladies. This party idea suggests you have each lady bring an item, but you may choose to make them yourself. I’ve included some recipes from Finger Food which I made and liked, but you can use any appetizer recipes. I’ve also included my recipe for mulled wine, at the end. This is a Thanksgiving favorite in my family!


Have each person bring a plate of small bites. Suggested recipes are listed. The hostess is responsible for set up and clean up.


Curried Nuts

4 c. Mixed Nuts
1 egg white
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
Preheat the oven to 300F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 10 min. Whisk the egg whites until frothy, add the nuts, curry powder, cumin and 1 tsp salt. Toss together and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Cool.

Wild Mushroom Pate on Melba Toasts

¾ oz dried wild mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles, morels)
¼ c butter
¾ lb Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp brandy
¼ c heavy whipping cream
1 tsp fresh thyme
¼ tsp juniper berries ground
30 mini melba toasts
crème fraiche (to serve)
30 fresh Italian parsley leaves

Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl with 1 cup hot (not boiling) water for 2 hours or until soft. Drain, saving 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Discard any pieces of mushroom that are still tough and woody after soaking.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the dried mushrooms and soaking liquid and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in the brandy and cook for 2 minutes or until evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer the cooked mushroom mixture to a food processor with the cream, thyme, juniper berries and ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper and blend for 4 – 5 minutes or until finely chopped.

Spoon the pate into a bowl and refrigerate, covered for at least 3 hours or until chilled. Put a teaspoon of pate on each toast and top with ½ teaspoon crème fraiche and fresh parsley leaf.

Polenta wedges with mozzarella and tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil
1 2/3 c polenta
¾ c grated Parmesan
2 ½ tbsp pesto
1 c thinly sliced mozzarella
12 cherry tomatoes cut in quarters
½ c fresh basil, larger leaves torn

Lightly grease an 8 X 12 inch baking pan with the olive oil. Bring 4 cups lightly salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Once the water is boiling, add the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly to keep lumps from forming.

Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring for 20 – 25 minutes or until the polenta starts to come away from the sides of the pan.
Stir the parmesan into the polenta and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the polenta into the baking pan, smooth the top with the back of a wet spoon, and leave for 1 hour or until set. Once the polenta has set, carefully transfer it onto a cutting board and cut into 24 2-inch squares. Cut each square into 2 triangles. Cook the polenta in batches on a preheated, ridged grill pan for 2-3 minutes on each side or until warmed through.

Spread each triangle with 1 teaspoon of the pesto, top with a slice of mozzarella and a tomato quarter. Season and toast under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is just starting to melt. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.

Hazelnut cream squares

4 eggs separated
½ c superfine sugar
½ c self-rising flour
2/3 c ground hazelnuts
2/3 c unsalted butter, softened
½ c chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)
½ c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
cocoa powder to dust
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch, shallow, square cake pan and line the bottom with baking parchment.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer in a bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating until thick and glossy. Beat the egg yolks into the mixture, one at a time. Sift the flour over the mixture, add the ground hazelnuts, and fold in with a metal spoon. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 2 tablespoons boiling water in a small bowl, then fold into the sponge mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked. Leave in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut the sponge in half horizontally through the center.

Beat the hazelnut spread and the remaining butter with an electric mixer until very creamy. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, then gradually add 3 teaspoons of boiling water and beat until smooth. Fill the cake with the icing and refrigerate until the filling is firm. Dust with the cocoa powder, then cut into squares.

Mulled Wine

Inexpensive Red Wine - I usually buy a Bota Box of Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon
Mulling Spices - I make my own by wrapping whole cloves, whole allspice, whole nutmeg (cracked open), whole cardamom split, and whole star anise in cheesecloth and tying it up with cinnamon sticks (World Market is a good place to buy inexpensive spices)
Sliced oranges

Pour the wine into a large pot or crock pot with the mulling spices and simmer for until hot. In the crock pot, this can warm for several hours. Serve in mugs with the sliced oranges and sugar to taste.

Happy Holiday Season!

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Vegetarian Adventures Continue...

Vegetarian Adventure Part 1.jpgThis was my first official week of cooking from Passionate Vegetarian. First up on the menu - Zwiebel Kuchen (German Onion Tart) and Moroccan Carrot Salad. Don't you know my partner decided he is going wheat-free for awhile immediately after I make the decision! Oiy.

My second issue, after reading the recipes (of course, AFTER selecting them!), was that I don't own a food processor and the instructions indicate mixing the pastry dough in one. So, I immediately launched into researching food processors and then decided I've made enough bread in my life that it's unlikely I would totally mess it up by just mixing it by hand. Food processor purchase tabled, for now.

Third challenge- easily remedied- I was short on cumin. Mental note to self - verify quantities of ingredients before beginning the process!

I might be a slow cooker - it took me the better part of Saturday to make both things, of course I had to make the pastry for the tart, too (does this count as three recipes?). I wonder if I'll become more efficient as time goes on. Both recipes were delicious, although I probably could have done a better job making the pastry look nice.

I  used the pre-cut carrot chips, instead of grating carrots (maybe when I have a food processor I will try it the other way). I am inclined to try it with the 4 épices seasoning we bought at Caravane Epices in Morocco back in February. We've used it on vegetables in the past and it's delicious. So much so that we'll be ordering more of it in the near future! We also bought their 30 spice blend - Ras Elhanoute. I've used that on one of my favorite grilled tuna steak recipes (see below) instead of cumin. I think that spice blend made it even better than the original recipe!  

I started a wine club back in the late 90s in Richmond with a good friend - it was a catalyst for starting LBDC. I barely drank wine at the time, but over the years I’ve learned quite a bit and been on several wine-influenced vacations. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I know what I like. I can generally put together a decent pairing, but I ALWAYS ask at the wine store what they recommend. This time, I got a real winner! Essay from South Africa - a Chenin Blanc with a touch of Viognier - is what they suggested. Not only did it pair very well (recommended with creamy pasta and spicy food), it was only $10 a bottle! I liked it so much I think I would be happy to drink it on the patio sans food.

Ben and I have been trying to use up things in the freezer, so when he saw the leftover buttermilk (why isn't a small container available?) he suggested I choose something to use that up. First thing that comes to mind - biscuits. So, despite his wheat-free commitment, I'll be making Buttermilk-Oatmeal Whole Wheat Rolls with a Salt-Honey Glaze! I think my babysitter will be benefitting from his dietary change!

Cumin Tuna Steaks with Lime Cream and Salsa

Tuna Steaks
Serves 4
4 thick (1 1⁄2 inch) tuna steaks (about 2 lbs total)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons freshly ground cumin (preferably from toasted seeds)
Lime Cream (recipe below)
Mango Salsa (recipe below)

1. Preheat a grass grill to medium-high. Position the grill rack about 6 inches from the heat source.
2. Meanwhile, season the tuna steaks on all sides with salt and pepper to taste. Evenly dust the steaks all over with the cumin, patting it firmly into the fish to encourage it to adhere.
3. When the grill is ready, lightly oil the rack. Lay the steaks on the rack. Cover and grill, turning once, until done to your liking, about 6 minutes total for medium-rare.
4. Transfer steaks to plates. Generously drizzle the lime cream onto and around the steaks. Spoon a generous dollop of salsa alongside each steak.

Lime Cream - Can be made up to a week in advance.
Makes 3⁄4 cup

6 tablespoons sour cream
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 1⁄2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 garlic clove, crushed through a press (optional)
Pinch of salt
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Adjust the seasoning, it should be tangy. Refrigerate in a covered container. Return to room temperature before serving.

Mango Salsa - I have bought mango salsa or a fruit salsa at the grocery as an easy alternative!
Makes 3 1⁄2 cups

6 long green chiles such as Anaheim or New Mexican, roasted, steamed, peeled, and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 large, firm but juicy-ripe mango, peeled and cubed
1 large, firm but juicy-ripe tomato (about 12 oz) cored, seeded and coarsely chopped
3⁄4 cup diced onion
1 to 2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed and minced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro

1. In a bowl, combine all of the ingredients
2. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 hour to blend the flavors. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro and adjust
the seasoning.
Happy cooking,
Chef Christine, LBDC CEO

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pictures In A Pumpkin Patch

Fall is the perfect time of year for pictures...and I can't think of a more colorful and glorious spot than right in the middle of the pumpkin patch. The Little Black Dress Club Fort Lauderdale members traded in their usual skyscrapers, stilettos and cocktail dresses for cowboy boots, hay bales, and a little country girl swag to kick off the Halloween season with "Pictures in a Pumpkin Patch".

Pictures in a Pumpkin Patch was a professional photo shoot for members only…and the results were amazing. Every member looked like a supermodel thanks to a quick "striking a pose" class that ensured a perfect camera shot. The ladies were instructed on where to stand, where to put your feet, what to do with your hands, and even how to tilt your head and in which direction. Did you know you are never suppose to face a camera head on…we do now!

Everyone was so excited about their photos, that the group plans sneak in another photo shoot (and a hay ride too) before the Halloween season is over.

Join us on Facebook to see the rest of our pictures from this fabulous photo shoot! 


Melissa Harbour, Ft Lauderdale Director

Happy Fall, yall!