Saturday, October 31, 2009

An Easy Start, A Decadent Finish

This past week, I found myself alone, as Aaron had gone to the US for our niece's wedding. To entertain myself (and my friends), I invited a few girls for dinner on Friday night and made a 3-course meal, including a dijon pork recipe that is easy and always delicious (I'll share this recipe another time). At the last minute, feeling that I was missing something to start the meal, I made three types of bruschetta, and in the end, they were the best part of the meal!

Simple toasted bread (a nice soft baguette) covered with a variety of toppings, and I was quite popular with my friends. We spent 15 minutes comparing the different types and voting for the best. Below are the two recipes that won. They'll take you very little time to make, with only a few ingredients, but people will be talking for days. (Recipe below)

On another note, for that same meal, I made a variation on the apple crumble I posted a few weeks ago: An Apple and Mascarpone Tart. It too was delicious, and made even more so with scoop of Mövenpick Crème Brûlée ice cream on the side! It was fairly easy and quite good. With apple season coming to a close, give this one a try and see what you think. A beautiful presentation and delicious too!

It was a great weekend (despite being a bit lonely without Aaron), and I ended up making 6 dishes in addition to the Friday night dinner. And all but one were a resounding success, giving a nice boost to my ratio of successes. Watch for some of the other successes to be added in the coming weeks.

Bon appetit!

An Easy Start ...
Bruschetta Deux Fois

Leeks and Cheese

1 baguette or loaf of quality bread, cut into slices
Olive oil
2 cups leeks, sliced in thin rings
.75 cup grated cheese (I used gruyere, but you can use many kinds: emmental, cheddar, mozzarella, etc.)

Arrange the slices of bread on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 6-8 minutes, until crisp. Remove from the oven.
While the toasts are baking, heat a small amount of olive oil in a skillet. When hot, add the sliced leeks and saute until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Place a scoop of leeks on each bread slice, top with grated cheese and place back in the oven for about 4 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Figs and Cheese

1 baguette or loaf of quality bread, cut into slices
Olive oil
4 figs, washed, and tops and bottoms cut off, figs cut into thin slices
Manchego or Comte cheese (or some other hard, sharp cheese, preferably sheep's milk cheese)
Balsamic vinegar

Follow the same steps as above for the toasts. Once toasted, remove from the oven. Top each toast with one or two slices of fig, then, using a vegetable peeler, cut thin shards of the cheese and place on top of the figs. Place back in the oven for 3-4 minutes, until cheese is slightly softened. Remove, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar to each slice, and serve.

A Decadent Finish ...
Apple and Marscapone Tart

Pie crust (purchased, or see recipe below)
3 tart apples (Granny Smith, Gala, or example)
Lemon juice
1 cup mascarpone cheese (a soft, sweet cheese, found in the dairy or cheese section at the market)
.5 cup of almond flour
8 oz. butter, melted
Vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Peel the apples and slice in thin, uniform slices. Set them in a owl with a little lemon juice, coating each slide to prevent browning.
Make the pie crust, or with a store-bought cust, press it into a tart pan with removable bottom. (I used a long rectangular pan, but a round pan also works well.)
Spread the mascarpone cheese on the bottom of the crust in an even layer, covering the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon over the mascarpone.
Arrange the apple slices over the mascarpone, in overlapping layers. Alternatively, you can pile the apples into the crust for a faster tart, but the look is not as neat or appealing. *But, it is rustic and also perfectly lovely!)
In a separate bowl, mix the butter, almond powder and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the apples, spreading it over the apples (carefully, so as not to mess up the apple arrangement).
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, until crust is brown and crisp and apples are soft and cooked through.
Let cool, and serve with a scoop o ice cream or a dollop of marscapone cheese on top.

Note: You can also add nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts, chopped) to the butter/almond flour mixture.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Apple A Day

Fall is here! I love this season, the time when it starts to get cold, you crave warm comfort food, the boots and sweaters can come out from the back of the closet, and apples are everywhere. (Not to mention roasted chestnuts, pumpkins, butternut squash ... I love fall food!)

Germany and Austria, as you may know, are known for amazing apfelstrudel. Aaron and I were in Berlin in September for a four-day weekend. What an amazing city, filled with history and great food. We stopped at an outdoor
cafe one afternoon so I could enjoy an apfelstrudel (Aaron has never been a fan of apples, so he just had an espresso). When my dessert arrived, it consisted of a beautiful pale phyllo pastry, filled with apples, cinnamon, raisins, nuts and butter. The best part: a creme anglaise sauce to pour over the top of the strudel. And the cafe was not stingy with the sauce; there was more than enough for the strudel.

The only problem: it looked so good that Aaron needed to try it and suddenly discovered that apples are really good when cooked in pastry and covered with a rich, smooth vanilla sauce (but then, what isn't?). He was lovely enough to only take a few bites of mine, showing great self-restraint. But, he thought about it for the rest of the day, and the next day, when we were riding bikes all the way across town, he suddenly decided that he couldn't wait any longer. So we made a beeline for another apfelstrudel. And now, my husband is a convert to the delicious apple.

Now that the apples are filling the markets, I made my own apple dessert for friends last night. I based it on an apple crumble recipe I found, but changed it quite a bit. It was delicious, served with a dollop of creme fraiche on top. Simple to make, and a delicious end to a good meal. Give it a try and let me know what you think. I'll be making it again tomorrow (but with more of the crumble, as requested by Aaron.)

Bon appetit!

Pommes avec Deux Sucres

6 apples, peeled, cored and cut into large chunks (you can also use whole cored apples, with the filling stuffed into the center cavity)
I used gala apples, but any tart, firm apple will work
50 grams regular, white sugar
50 grams cane sugar (or sugar in the raw)
100 grams butter, melted
120 grams almond flour
Optional 30 grams crushed nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans are great) and/or raisins or dried cranberries

In a medium bowl, mix the two sugars into the melted butter. Add the almond flour, and mix well. The mixture will be crumbly and moist.

Spread the apple pieces in an oiled baking pan with 1-inch sides (to keep the butter in the pan). Pour the butter mixture over the apples and mix well, ensuring all apple pieces are coated with butter and some of the crumble.

Bake in the oven at 200 degrees celsius/390 degrees fahrenheit until soft and slightly gooey, approximately 35-40 minutes. Stir the apples and re-distribute the butter and crumble as needed every 10-15 minutes to ensure they don't burn or dry out.

Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream. (I'll work on a creme anglaise recipe for another day!)