Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blood Orange & Balsamic Glazed Shallot Tarte Fine w/ Lavender Orange Honey Drizzle

This delicious mouthful of a title is my entry for the March Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jen, The Leftover Queen. This is a friendly monthly competition for fellow members of her forum. The past month's winner chooses the 3 ingredients for the following month's Joust. The February winner was Angela of Spinach Tiger. Her blog is absolutely beautiful and worth checking out. Her choice of ingredients for this month's Joust were satsuma (or any other citrus)-zest, fruit or juice, shallots and edible flowers (any form). It took me several days to ponder these and find some inspiration. The addition of shallots threw me off a bit. Turning to my fridge for a quick inventory, I discovered a package of frozen puff pastry and goat cheese. The pantry yielded honey and dried lavender flowers. Aha! The wheels began turning and the aforementioned mouthful of a title is what I came up with. I whipped this together yesterday for a fantastic Friday evening meal. Now I must get this posted here and on the forum. As with my past entries, I hope this one is a winner!

Make the infused honey early in the day or a day or two in advance. I made mine the in the morning and let it sit all day before straining. Use the best honey you can find. The dried lavender can usually be found at a natural foods store. I decided on blood orange for my citrus because I thought it would be a great pairing with the balsamic vinegar, and it did not disappoint! I went a little heavy on the glazed, or caramelized shallots. You could easily cut these in half, but why? Their sweetness is a wonderful offset to the saltiness of the goat cheese. This tarte would also be nice with feta. The drizzle of honey just before plating is heavenly! I have plenty leftover for tea, toast, etc. Here are the recipes and photos for my entry.

Blood Orange & Balsamic Glazed Shallot Tarte Fine w/ Lavender Orange Honey Drizzle
makes 1 Tart Fine

1/2 package, or 1 sheet or frozen puff pastry
3 tbl Earth Balance spread
1 lb shallots, peeled and sliced
juice of 1 blood orange (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (perhaps a bit more)
2 tbl organic sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
7 oz goat cheese
1 tbl fresh thyme
Lavender Orange Honey (recipe to follow)

The first step is to prepare the shallots. After they have been peeled and sliced fairly thin, heat the Earth Balance in a large, non-stick pan over medium high heat. Add the shallots to the pan the saute until they soften and just begin to turn a nice golden color, about 10 minutes. Pour your juice from the orange into a 1/2 cup measure and then add enough of the vinegar to equal your 1/2 cup. Add this, the sugar, salt and pepper to the shallots. Turn the heat down to low and slowly cook until most of the liquid has cooked away and the remainder is thickened and syrupy. Remove from heat. Cool the mixture to room temperature, then cover and store in the fridge if you are not using until later (just be sure to bring the shallots back to room temperature before assembling your tart).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw the pastry according to the package instructions. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and lightly dust with flour. Roll the pastry on the paper lined sheet to 12" x 10", then fold a bit of the edges in to form a border. If the pastry tears or cracks, mend with a bit of water and press together. Prick the pastry all over with a fork or tip of your knife and place in the fridge to chill for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to bake, give the border a nice brush with the beaten egg and place the pastry in the oven and bake until just golden, about 10 minutes. To view a picture of a previous post with a Tarte Fine go here.

When the pastry is just golden, remove from the oven. It will have puffed up a bit, but will fall when you take it out and it begins to cool. Now you are ready to place the toppings.

Begin with the shallots. Lightly place them in a generous layer. Then, drop the crumbles of goat cheese and sprinkle with the thyme leaves. Place the tart back in the oven and continue to bake until the cheese gets a tinge of brown, bubbles a bit and the pastry is a deeper golden brown. Remove, slice and them drizzle generously with the infused honey.

To accompany this tart I tossed together a salad of romaine and bibb lettuces, diced pear, pistachios and a dried cranberry/pomegranate blend (found at Trader Joes), all dressed in a light vinaigrette. I added a few fresh pansies (edible) that I found on sale at the grocery store. If you have never eaten one, try it! They have a slight licorice taste.

Since it was a Friday night and I had this fun theme going, we began with a cocktail. It consists of a squeeze of lemon in each martini glass, some good vodka chilled with ice in a shaker, then strained into the glass and topped off with a splash of Blood Orange Italian Soda (from Target, who knew?). I then garnished each with a pansy, so cute and yummy! Maybe I will call it a B.O.T. (Blood Orange Tini, any other suggestions?). We munched on a few of the marinated olives while the tarte baked. Nothing like a good drink and a salty snack!

Here is the recipe for the infused honey. I am drinking a cup of tea with a bit of this honey while I type this, so good!

Lavender Orange Infused Honey

Heat 1 cup of good organic honey in a small heavy pot until it just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the peel of 1 blood orange and 2 tsp dried lavender flowers. Stir, cover and let sit at room temperature all day. Using a fine sieve, strain the honey mixture, pushing it with the back of a spoon to extract as much of the honey as you can. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

FYI: I just finished knitting a fun pair of socks and will be featuring them on the inaugural post of my new knitting blog, Knitalogue which should be up and running by the end of the weekend!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Beets, Goat Cheese and Olives

This is the last post in the Valentine's Day Dinner series. I will lay out the details of the first two courses. For one of the appetizers I made Marinated Olives with Lemon, Thyme and Rosemary. The recipe can be found here at This can be made 1 to 2 days in advance and is a very healthy nosh. Just hit your local olive bar at the grocery store, throw together your favorite olive mix, bring home and toss with a few ingredients, so easy! To compliment the saltiness of the marinated olives I put together a spread of Rosemary Cheese with Fig Preserves. I found this recipe on last year and made it as specified. This year a made a slight change. I wanted to try another cheese other than the cream cheese. I found a nice, soft farmer cheese, low in calories, fat and cholesterol, with a short list of ingredients. The resulting spread was very nice, but a bit softer than it was with the cream cheese. This recipe halves nicely, which is what I did since there are just the two of us. Another bonus, this can also be made in advance. So, here are the recipes for the appetizers.

Marinated Olives with Lemon, Thyme and Rosemary
makes 4 cups

4 cups mixed olives of your choice
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
6 sprigs fresh rosemary or 2 tablespoons dried
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of 1/2 lemon, cut into thin slivers
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut into slivers
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Combine olives, thyme, rosemary, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, oil and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, stirring several times. (I just packed it back into the deli container it came in.) Serve with pita or other flatbread or French or Italian bread.

Rosemary Cheese with Fig Preserves
makes 2 cups

8 oz. farmer cheese, softened
3 oz. goat cheese, softened
1 tbl chopped, fresh rosemary
2 tsp honey
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
3/4 cup fig preserves

Process first 5 ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.

Spoon cheese mixture into a mold which has been lightly greased and then lined with plastic wrap. I like to use ramekins for this. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Invert chilled cheese mixture onto a serving dish; discard wrap (duh!). Garnish with a sprig of rosemary. Serve with crackers of your choice. I like the sesame crackers, they hold up to the cheese well.

Note: This is the brand of crackers I prefer. You can find more info here. I can always find them at the natural foods store.

That finishes up the apps, now on to the next course: Herb Salad with "Heart" Beets, Goat Cheese Pistachio Marbles and Honey Vinaigrette. The beets are so cute on the plate and great for this occasion, or perhaps an anniversary. Here's how you put together the components of the salad.

First, start with your beets. Cut the tops off, leaving about an inch (save the greens, they are loaded with nutrients and are great raw in a salad or sauteed). Give them a scrub, dry them, then place them on a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil, wrap up in the foil, place your packet on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 40 minutes, or until tender.

When they are done, remove the baking sheet and let the packet cool completely. After the beets have cooled you can just slice off the top and rub the skin off. I like to use a paper towel, just seems to work for me. Be sure to give your hands a good washing, the beet dye will come off! Once they are roasted and peeled, you can store them in a covered container in the fridge until you are ready for them.

To make the hearts, simply slice the beets crosswise and cut the shapes with a small cookie cutter. Place them on a plate, cover and refrigerate until ready you are ready to plate them up. Save the scraps for salad another day.

Next up, the Goat Cheese Pistachio Marbles. Quite a mouthful, but oh so easy to make. First, pop a handful of roasted, unsalted, pistachios from their shells and give them a good chop. Place the chopped nuts on a small flat plate. Roll your goat cheese (I find it works best when it is chilled) into small, marbles with your hands, then roll them in the nuts until nicely coated. They can then be placed on a plate with the beets, covered and kept chilled

Okay, we have our beets roasted and cut out and our cheesy marbles ready to go. When you are ready to serve your salad simply whisk up a simple honey vinaigrette. To do this you combine a small amount of vinegar of your choice, (I used an apricot balsamic about 1 tsp) with a squirt of honey and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. When they are nicely combined drizzle in the olive oil, whisking to combine. The ratio of vinegar to oil is about 1 to 3, but taste as you go! I like the Martha method of mixing the vinaigrette into the bottom of the bowl, adding the salad greens on top and then tossing together, one less bowl to wash. For this salad I used the Earthbound Farm Organic Herb Mix, love it! Then just plate up with your beets and cheese and serve to your sweetie, lovely!

Don't forget, there are still a few days left to leave your comment and win the Food & Wine Cookbook!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Agave Glazed Rainbow Carrots and a Giveaway!

Here is a quick recipe for the carrots I made as a side to accompany the Wild Mushroom Lasagna. This really isn't a formal recipe, so adjust to your taste and the quantity you are making.

Start with nice, organic if possible, thin carrots. I love the rainbow variety of flavors. Just give them a good scrubbing, no need to peel when they are this thin. I like to leave a bit of the top on for looks. Heat a small amount of olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the carrots, in a non-stick pan over medium high heat. Toss in the carrots and cook for a few minutes. Then add a bit of vegetable broth, or water if that's all you have, salt and pepper to taste and a light sprinkle of dried or fresh thyme. Cover and let steam until just barely tender. Remove lid and add a squirt of agave, I use the organic blue agave, again to your taste. Continue to cook with the lid off until the liquid evaporates off and the agave gets all syrupy. That's all there is to it!

I discovered agave just recently. I love the mild sweetness and the added benefit of it's low glycemic index. We use it in tea every day and I have subbed it out for honey in quite a few recipes. Don't worry, I'm not giving up honey, just trying to cut back.

So, how does this meal sound:

Cabrales Phyllo Rolls with Sherry Dipping Sauce
Shaved Zucchini with Miso Vinaigrette
Seafood Pasta with Tuscan Hot Oil
Blueberry Meringue Tart

Would you like to have these recipes at your fingertips along with the perfect wine pairings? Well, wait no more! I have a copy of, "Food and Wine an entire year of recipes 2006" the magazines annual cookbook to give away! I found this nice, new copy at one of my favorite shops and thought it would be a nice prize to use to celebrate my One Year Anniversary. All you have to do to win this book is to answer this question, "What is your perfect Food And Wine pairing?" in the comment section. Please be sure to leave me your contact information (email) so I can notify you if you are the winner, and please only enter once. I will ship this anywhere. You have until February 28th, midnight my time (EST) to enter. I will choose a winner at random.

Picture yourself perusing your new cookbook while sipping a Jasmine Spritzer (pg.358), planning your next dinner party. Good Luck and thanks again for reading!

Important Note: If I cannot reach you to get your mailing information by Friday, March 6th, I will choose another winner, so be sure I can contact you!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Wild Mushroom Lasagna

Well, here it is, as promised, my One Year Anniversary post, featuring our Valentine's Day dinner. Wow, I still can't believe a whole year has gone by. I am anxious to get this next year started! So, I will begin the new year with a series of posts detailing the recipes from our dinner. Also, be on the lookout this week for a little giveaway I will be having. Just a little something to say "thanks" for sticking with me!


First, the menu:

* Rosemary Cheese with Fig Preserves & Sesame Crackers

* Marinated Olives w/Lemon, Thyme & Rosemary

* Herb Salad w/"Heart" Beets, Goat Cheese Pistachio Marbles & Honey Vinaigrette

* Wild Mushroom Lasagna w/Creamy Béchamel & Agave Glazed Rainbow Carrots

* Bee Mine Cake

Today I begin with the main course simply because it was so darn good. The combination of the wild mushrooms, rosemary, wine, madeira and lightly sweet béchamel was simply luscious. To top it off, the original recipe can be found here on the Cooking Light website (no guilt!). Last year I made the recipe as written, this year I made some changes to try to make the recipe even more heart and waist friendly. I used whole wheat lasagna, a Bordeaux wine (from Trader Joe's) and Madeira. In the béchamel I made a few changes including swapping the milk out with light plain soymilk. If you are not a fan of a lightly sweet béchamel then I would suggest an unsweetened soymilk. The consistency of the sauce was lovely, but it took longer to thicken up, so be patient. I love the taste of leeks so I split the onion quantity to half leeks and half white onion. For the mushrooms, just use the combination of fresh that you like or are more available/affordable. I used a combo of shiitakes and baby bellas, wonderful (can't wait til the farmers' market shrooms are available). The beauty of this dish is that you can prepare some, if not all of it a day in advance. I chose to just prepare the filling in advance knowing that the mushroom prep would take some time. The resulting dish is rich and earthy and I would challenge any meat lover to try it!

Wild Mushroom Lasagna w/ Creamy Bechamel
serves 8

Mushroom Filling:

2 cups boiling water
1 cup dried porcini mushroom (about 1 oz)
1 tbl olive oil
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts
1 cup chopped white onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
11 cups total, sliced mushrooms, (shiitake and baby bellas were my choice)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup Bordeaux wine
1/4 cup Madeira
1 tbl low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper


3 cups light plain soymilk
2 tbl earth balance spread
3 tbl sifted whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

Remaining ingredients:

Cooking spray
1 80z package of precooked whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 cup (4oz) great fresh Parmesan cheese

To prepare filling, combine water and porcini in a small bowl; let stand 30 minutes. Drain porcini through a sieve over a bowl, squeezing porcini to extract liquid. Reserve 1 1/2 cups liquid; discard remaining liquid. Rinse porcini, and drain. Chop coarsely; set aside. While the porcinis are soaking you can clean and slice the mushrooms and slice, rinse and drain the leeks.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leek and onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add shiitake mushrooms, cremini mushrooms, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms release moisture and begin to brown. Stir in porcini, wine, madeira and soy sauce. Cook 4 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates, stirring frequently. Stir in parsley and rosemary. Add the reserved porcini liquid; bring to a simmer. Cook until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup (about 10 minutes) Actually, it took much longer for mine to reduce down. Remove from heat; stir in 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

To prepare béchamel, place milk in a 4-cup glass measure. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes or until hot, stirring after 2 minutes. Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring with a whisk, and cook 1 minute or until bubbly, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Bring to a simmer; cook over low heat 8 minutes or until sauce slightly thickens, stirring frequently The sauce should just coat the back of a spoon, it will thicken during the baking process. Like I said before, it took mine much longer to thicken, more like 25 minutes. Keep an eye on it. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg. Note: please do yourself a favor and buy your nutmeg whole. Use your microplane to grate when needed. The flavor is much nicer (and prettier).

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread 1/2 cup béchamel in bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over béchamel; top with 1/2 cup béchamel. Top with 1 cup mushroom mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat layers three times (dish will be very full). Cover with foil; place baking dish on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Uncover lasagna; bake an additional 15 minutes or until cheese melts.

The finished product just out of the oven. Yeah,baby! Cover back up with your foil and let it sit about 10 minutes or so. I find it sets up a bit better.


Friday, February 13, 2009

My how time does fly!

I can't believe it has been so long since I have posted. I miss all of you, my bleaders! Not only that, but my one year anniversary is upon me. So, I am in the process of recreating our meal from last Valentine's Day with a few little tweaks. Looking back on that, my first post, I can't believe how this blog has developed over time.

Anyway, I have done as much prep today as I can, or want, and am looking forward to the meal and blogging about it afterwards.

Our health is good. Mr. is recovering nicely from his surgery. He is looking and feeling like the "Old Mr". It is so nice to be able to go for a walk, that is when the snow isn't in the way. Thanks again for all of your thoughts and prayers during that time. I am battling a gallbladder problem which has really put a crimp in my eating/cooking. I am trying to avoid surgery (I am a big chicken) with herbal supplements and monitoring my diet closely. Anyone who has any advice/experience, I welcome your comments.

Now, off to clean up the kitchen and visit a friend for her birthday! By the way, I have been really into my knitting lately and plan to either integrate it into this blog or start another, still sitting on that one!