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The holidays are the perfect time of year for me to flex culinary muscles I normally leave dormant most of the year. I love sweets but like to cook savory 99% of the time and buy my confections from those whom are experts. However, I am passionate about giving edible gifts which are practical wonders of joy for people to enjoy as they eat. Truffles are my favorite way to eat chocolate. They are rich yet because they are small you can appreciate every morsel without guilt. Here is an easy recipe to add to your repertoire as a way to win over your loved ones with each nugget. Feel free to double or triple the recipe. Make sure to present in a box with a bow for extra flair and effort.
Makes 30-40 chocolate truffles
Basic truffle ingredients
8 ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (high quality, 62% cacao or higher), well chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
Optional base flavorings:
Mint leaves (1 bunch, stems removed, chopped, about 1 cup)
Cinnamon and Cardamom (1 cinnamon stick, 2 cardamom pods)
Ground Nutmeg, Allspice, Cocoa (2 tablespoons)
Amaretto (1-2 tablespoons)
Almond extract (1 teaspoon)
Rose extract (1 teaspoon)
Toasted Coconut Flakes
Finely chopped Walnuts
Finely chopped Almonds
1. In a small, heavy saucepan bring the heavy whipping cream to a simmer (this may take a while, be sure to stir and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula every few minutes).
If you are using one of the other recommended flavorings, stir it in with the cream (and ignore vanilla in the next step). If adding mint or other solids, after the cream simmers, remove from heat and let seep for an hour. Then strain away solids, and return the cream to a simmer and proceed with recipe.
2. Place the chocolate in a separate bowl. Pour the cream over the chocolate, add the vanilla, and allow to stand for a few minutes then stir until smooth. (This chocolate base is called ganache.)
Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for two hours. Remove and with a teaspoon roll out balls of the ganache. Roll in your hands quickly (as it will melt from the heat of your hands) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
3. Roll in cocoa powder, coconut, chopped nuts, or other covering and serve, or place back in the refrigerator until needed.
Cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable, is in the same plant family as broccoli, kale, cabbage and collards. A cruciferous vegetable from a health standpoint, you will find several dozen studies linking cauliflower-containing diets to cancer prevention. It has a compact head (called a “curd”), with an average size of six inches in diameter, composed of undeveloped flower buds. The milk, sweet, almost nutty flavor of cauliflower is at its best from December through March when it is in season. I love this white vegetable roasted. Indian flavors lend itself to the open canvas, cauliflower provides. Tandoori spices lend spice and multi layers of flavors while the mint chutney balances out the punch of the tandoori. You can adjust the flavors based on your comfort level. For your next dinner party, you can serve this dish as a smart side dish or to impress vegetarians for a stunning yet satisfying entrée that feels like you put in some effort. As winter and eating local seem mundane with a standard rotation of root vegetables, cauliflower does not get a fair shake due to unimaginative cooking methods. This recipe is sure not disappoint and is a global local gourmet regular.
1 large head cauliflower, washed well, leaves removed
For Tandoori Marinade
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoons minced ginger
21/2 tablespoons store bought tandoori spice blend
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup Greek yogurt
Tandoori Spice Mix
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cayenne
Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
For Mint Chutney
2 cups loosely packed mint leaves
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1 shallot, minced
½ red chili, minced (optional)
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
A couple pinches of salt
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
In a mortar and pestle (or food processor) smash garlic and ginger into paste. Add the tandoori spice, lemon and salt and mix until well blended. Fold in the yogurt. Place the whole cauliflower in a large bowl and spread the marinade all over, making sure to coat the bottom as well. Place in the fridge to marinate for 1 hour minimum up to 12 hours maximum. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place cauliflower on a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 45-60 depending on the size of the cauliflower. Garnish with cilantro leaves, lemon juice and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
For Mint Chutney…
Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to form a chunky pesto-like sauce. Season to taste. Store leftovers in fridge for up to 5 days.
Winter is impending. We fluctuate between cold and temperate weather. I have wanted to squeak in a trip to the tropics for business and pleasure, however because of work commitments in the states, it is not going to be possible until the New Year. Sweet tropical flavors meet crunchy winter vegetables in this Caribbean style coleslaw. Cabbage is eaten in abundance in the tropics since it is readily available and local now in the North East, I thought this was an easy way to bring me to a beach and at least prepare my body for swimsuit weather. So when those snowy winter days come in the near future, make this recipe and think of eating it on your favorite sandy isle so you can get over your cabin fever.
Approximately 3 cups of each sliced into thin ribbon around 1/4 head
3 med carrots cut into matchsticks or grated
¼ c roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 pkg. (170g) coconut cream – chopped or 1 small can coconut milk just the thick cream part
¼ cup chopped basil
¼ cup chopped mint
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup water
¼ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons tamari
¼ cup sunflower oil
Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. To make the dressing put all of the ingredients except for the sunflower oil in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add the sunflower oil in a fine stream while the blender is still running. It should be smooth and creamy. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss till it’s evenly covered.
I have always had a love affair with lobster. The first one I probably had was in Jamaica where they are only tails with no claws. My grandfather was a fisherman and from our house you can see what you might eat for the night with personal deliveries from the men of sea coming up the street with freshly caught lobster, shrimp, fish, and the always crazy looking octopus. People always ask me as a chef, “what is your favorite food?” I feel funny saying lobster because for the most part, I love it plain, butter poached or grilled with a good butter. I might flavor it with herbs, take it back to my Jamaican heritage and curry it, or be decadent and make this gluttonous truffle sabayon. I love the aroma of truffles. The smell and taste is so distinctive of mushroom, earth, and fresh air. Elm City Market has been having some amazing lobster tails for $5.99 each. They are wild, local, and a welcome treat to celebrate just being you. I buy a bunch and leave them in the freezer so when unexpected company comes over or I want to be indulgent, I make this quick and easy gourmet recipe that will make you smile bright with ecstasy.
Makes Sauce for 6- 8 Servings
6 large egg yolks
½ cup dry white wine
6 oz. heavy cream, whipped stiffly
8 oz. clarified butter, room temperature
4 oz. white truffle oil
to taste - salt and pepper
In a large metal mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks and the white wine. Using a whisk, combine the two until they appear frothy and well mixed. Over a double boiler, whisk the egg mixture continuously until the eggs are cooked. The mixture should be creamy in appearance and silky smooth in texture. No scrambled looking eggs should appear.
Using the whisk, slowly add the clarified butter in a steady stream until completely mixed together. Use the same method for the white truffle oil. Spoon and fold the cold whipped cream into the egg mixture until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve until final assembly.
The oyster has been the ultimate symbol for edible aphrodisiacs. It is the universal emblem for sex and fertility. As Spring is the time to plant seeds and the Oyster has the magical ability to make pearls, in Connecticut we are lucky enough to have some wonderful Atlantic bivalve mollusks that are plump and appealing in salinity. Oysters thrive in Connecticut’s tidal waves and brackish coasts. Consumed by Connecticut’s Native Americas in great numbers, the early Europeans saw oysters as a viable staple in their colonial diets. There are many shellfish species associated with the Connecticut shoreline; however the oyster is king and respected for its flamboyant history, economic foundation, and revered reputation for excellence. I love serving them because they are sexy and an easy amuse bouche or starter for your honored guests. Once you get the hang of opening them which is easy when you have the right tools, all you have do is make a simple dressing or just have some interesting hot sauces and a little horseradish if you like and you have a superb start to a great evening. Elm City Market is one of few places to get local fresh Oysters for home consumption. They have shucking knives and all the accoutrements necessary for an epicurean feast. The mignonette below is super fast and compliments the brininess of the oysters with the sweetness of mango. Since we are longing for Spring in the midst of so much snow and we all need a break, this recipe makes a tropical bite size treat for now.
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup mango juice
¼ cup minced chives
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl and serve over freshly shucked oysters and clams.
Asian New Year and Golden Spring Rolls
Growing up in Toronto, I was exposed to the biggest Chinatown in North America. We would go often to eat authentic, fresh, and delicious Chinese food. Chinese New Year is coming up and starts from January 31 and lasts for 15 days. 2014 is the year of the Horse. In Chinese culture, the horse is a symbol of nobility, class, speed and perseverance. The Chinese New Year has many customs associated with its’ celebration. Throughout the New Year’s season, certain foods are served because they symbolize abundance and good fortune. Besides preparing special dishes, like whole fish or chicken, dumplings that look like Chinese money or noodles to symbolize a long life, tangerines and oranges are often passed out to children and guests, as they symbolize wealth and good luck. In America we start the New Year with resolutions and goals for our impending twelve months. Even if you are not Chinese, Asian New Year is an opportunity to recharge and get a second chance to concentrate on some important ideals like family, gratitude, optimism, and positive intentions. Springs rolls are often part of the Asian New Year’s table because they look like bars of gold. They are most importantly fun to make and even better to consume. If you can’t get to New York or Boston for a lion dance or fireworks festivities, have your own Asian New Year’s party and don’t forget to wear red for good luck. You still have a couple days left.
Makes ABOUT 12 SPRING ROLLS
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing on rolls
1 pound ground chicken/or pork
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
4 ounces bean sprouts
1 small carrot, julienned
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons store-bought hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon oyster/or mushroom sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon five-spice powder
12 square (7-inch) spring roll wrappers (See Notes)
Sweet chili sauce, for serving (See Notes)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. or follow Frying methods below.
Sauté the garlic and ginger in the sesame and vegetable oils in large sauté pan set over medium-high heat.
Add the ground chicken or pork to the pan, breaking it apart into small pieces, and sauté until fully cooked.
Add the mushrooms and carrots to the pan and sauté just until wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and drain out any liquid. Stir in the green cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions and hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, and five spice powder until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and let it cool for 10 minutes.
Arrange the spring roll wrappers on a dry work surface then place 3 to 4 tablespoons of the chicken mixture in the center of each of the spring roll wrappers. Roll the wrappers around the mixture, folding the edges inward. Before your final fold, dip your fingers in water and then moisten the outer edge of the wrapper to seal the spring roll shut.
Arrange the spring rolls in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat nonstick baking mat. Brush the tops of the rolls with olive oil then bake them for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating after 6 minutes, until they’re golden brown and crispy. Remove the spring rolls from the oven and serve them immediately with the sweet chili sauce mixed with spicy mustard.
Spring roll wrappers can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets.
Sweet chili sauce can usually be found by the Asian isle in most supermarkets with the Thai pantry items. The number one rule to successful spring rolls is to roll tightly! The less space you leave within the spring roll, the less chance of it falling apart while baking or frying.
The rolls can be prepared up to three hours in advance and stored in an air-tight container in the fridge. Remove them from the fridge and bake or fry them when ready to serve.
Heat a wok or heavy-bottomed pan over a high heat, and fill it to a quarter of its depth with enough groundnut oil. Cook’s Note: Ensure your wok is stable before deep-frying. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F, or until a cube of bread dropped in it turns golden brown in 15 seconds.
Deep fry the spring rolls until golden brown, turning frequently, and then transfer them, using a slotted spoon, to drain on an absorbent kitchen towel.