Sharing a seriously fun love for food

Month: April 2018

Pork Tenderloin Braised in Cream and White Wine

Pork Tenderloin Braised in Cream and White Wine

Pork Tenderloin is one of the simplest cuts of meat to prepare. Tenderloins are typically tossed on the grill or quickly roasted in the oven. But there’s another option in cooking this tender cut of pork – braising in cream and white wine.

Braising and marinating in dairy is a very old way of preparing beef, pork and poultry. My Grandmothers and my Mother marinated poultry and wild game in milk and buttermilk. It was said it would tenderize the meat and even remove the “gamey” taste from quail, dove or other meats brought in from a day of hunting in the fields. Beyond the attributes of marinating in dairy braising in milk or cream will keep the meat tender during a slow cook while simultaneously creating a luscious sauce for serving. It’s an old proven method and one worth repeating.

This dish starts with a simple rub of kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, tangy dry mustard and an undertone of warmth and spice from chili powder. Then sweet onion is added along with the subtle notes of marjoram rounding out this easy and savory dish. Nestle in the pork tenderloins, surround them with cream and white wine and a beautiful meal awaits.

Serve over a bed of nutty Yukon Gold potatoes – simplicity can really taste quite wonderful!

Pork Tenderloin Braised in Cream and White Wine

For the rub:

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1-1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

2 teaspoons dry mustard

½ teaspoon chili powder

Stir together the kosher salt, pepper, dry mustard and chili powder. Spread evenly over all sides of the tenderloins. Let rest at least 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight*.

*If the tenderloins are refrigerated let them come to room temperature before sauteing, about 30-45 minutes.

For the braised tenderloins:

2 tenderloins, about 2-1/2 pounds total – silverskin* removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, sliced, about 1 to 1-1/4 pounds

1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

5 sprigs fresh marjoram or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups heavy cream

To finish the sauce:

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup chicken broth

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium heat.

When the butter and oil are hot add the tenderloins and sear them on each side. Transfer the tenderloins to a tray. Add the onion to the pan and cook until the slices are tender. (Add more butter and olive oil if needed.)

Toss in the marjoram, the kosher salt and black pepper and sauté for an extra 5 minutes.

Stir in the white wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits of fond – those tasty caramelized brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Place the tenderloins back in the pan and pour in the cream.

Cover the pan tightly and cook in a 300-degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes. You want an internal temperature of around 150-degrees so check after 45 minutes. The time will vary depending on the thickness of the tenderloins. Insert an instant read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to get an accurate read. Keep in mind the meat will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven. Once the tenderloins are at temperature remove them from the sauce and place them on a cutting board.

Cover them tightly with foil and let them rest for at least 10 minutes while you finish the sauce.

Combine the flour and the broth in a small jar or container and shake until mixed together. Place the sauté pan with the sauce over medium heat and slowly stir in the flour and broth. Cook for about 10 minutes until the flour and broth are cooked and the sauce thickens slightly.

Slice the pork tenderloin and serve with the warm sauce.

 

*Silverskin is a thin membrane – a tough connective tissue that should be removed before cooking. This will allow seasonings to get into the meat and prevent it from curling up while cooking. Simply take a very sharp boning knife, slide it just under the silverskin and trim it off.

St-Germain + Gin = Two Beautiful Cocktails ~ The Bramble en Rose and Ultimate Dill

St-Germain + Gin = Two Beautiful Cocktails ~ The Bramble en Rose and Ultimate Dill

It’s intriguing to see how things with commonality can create such different results. Such is the case with these two beautiful cocktails!

St-Germain and gin are two of my favorite spirits, though one is probably better known than the other. St-Germain is an absolutley lovely liqueur made from elderflowers. The best description comes from St-Germain – “The sublime taste of St-Germain hints at pear, peach and grapefruit, yet none of them exactly. It is a flavor as subtle and delicate as it is captivating.”

The essence of gin – in this case the spectacular Plymouth Gin – comes from a distilling process that includes the botanicals of juniper, coriander, sweet orange, cardamom, angelica and orris root. Add a few treasures from the garden and these spirits create two very special cocktails – both perfect for a warm, sunny day!

The Bramble en Rose takes on a gorgeous hue thanks to the luscious blackberries muddled in the glass.

 

Add the St-Germain and gin, a splash of brightness from lemon juice, a touch of simple syrup to smooth it out and a bit of bubbly to complete this gorgeous drink!

On the opposite side of the color and taste spectrum is the Ultimate Dill. Many recipes make this drink using vodka or tequila but I prefer gin. I personally think the notes of Plymouth Gin balance so well with the dill and cucumber and pair perfectly with St-Germain.

These fresh ingredients are muddled together in the glass before being joined by the floral scented St-Germain and gin, a squeeze or two of lime juice and a touch of simple syrup.

This unexpected combination creates a refreshing cocktail!

Set out the St-Germain and Plymouth Gin, pull together those garden-fresh ingredients and you’ve got a fabulous and fun cocktail bar for warm weather entertaining!

Bramble en Rose

4 blackberries, plus 3 for garnish

1 ounce St-Germain

2 ounces gin, preferably Plymouth Gin

3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 teaspoons simple syrup

1 ounce Prosecco or sparkling wine

Ice

Place 4 of the blackberries in the bottom of a cocktail glass.

Using a muddler, crush the fruit.

Add the St-Germain, the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and Prosecco. If your blackberries are a bit tart, adjust the simple syrup to suit your taste. Stir until well blended.

Add ice. Garnish with the remaining 3 blackberries on a skewer or hors d’oeuvre pick. Makes one cocktail.

Ultimate Dill

4 slices cucumber plus extra for garnish

1 sprig of dill

2 ounces St-Germain

2 ounces gin, preferably Plymouth Gin

3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 teaspoons simple syrup

Ice

Place 4 slices of cucumber and the sprig of dill  in the bottom of a cocktail glass.

Using a muddler, crush the cucumber and the dill.

Add the St-Germain, the gin, lime juice and the simple syrup. Stir until well blended.

Add ice. Garnish with an additional cucumber slice on the rim of the glass.

Stuffed Summer Squash

Stuffed Summer Squash

Commonly known by many names – summer squash, yellow squash, crook neck or straight neck – this squash variety is probably one of the most familiar. And though one of the most ubiquitous of the squash family we seem to struggle when it comes to cooking summer squash.

I grew up eating summer squash. Both my Grandmothers grew it in their gardens. Somehow it thrived in the hot, dry Texas Panhandle summer sun. They cooked it in milk, with sweet onion, butter and a touch of sugar or sliced it, rolled it in flour and cornmeal then pan-fried the bright yellow beauties. Summer Squash on it’s own has a very mild taste. But surround it with layers of flavor and it soaks them up like a sponge.

One of my favorite ways to prepare summer squash is baked in a casserole and it’s always on our holiday menu for Matthew. But sometimes you want smaller portions. This is a wonderful option – sort of a “deconstructed” squash casserole – filled with sautéed squash, sweet onion, crisp bits of bacon, toasted pine nuts, sour cream and a blend of Parmesan and Fontina cheese. This recipe makes four portions and can easily be cut in half to prepare just one squash or multiplied for a gathering.

The presentation is surpassed only by the taste!

Stuffed Summer Squash

2 medium to large yellow squash, rinsed and ends trimmed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1-1/4 to 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

¾ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, divided

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of butter, divided

2 tablespoons chopped onion

2 pieces crispy bacon, chopped

10 tablespoons bread crumbs*, divided

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup shaved or shredded cheese, preferably a blend of Parmesan and Fontina, plus extra for garnish – Sartori’s Tuscan Blend works very well

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Cut the squash in half lengthwise then using a melon baller, scoop out the flesh of the squash leaving about ¼” to create an edible shell. Take care to not cut through the outer skin of the squash.

Rough chop the flesh of the squash and set it aside.

Brush the squash shells, inside and out with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Generously season the inside with ¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. The amount of salt will depend upon the size of your squash. Place the squash shells on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with crumpled foil. (This helps hold them in place.)

Roast the shells at 400-degrees for 20 minutes or until the remaining flesh in the shells is very tender. While the shells roast prepare the filling.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan. Add the reserved chopped squash, the chopped onion, the bacon, 6 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs and  1/2 teaspoon of the salt kosher salt and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Cook over medium heat until the squash is very tender and the onion is translucent – about 10 minutes.

Let the squash mixture cool slightly then add the sour cream, the cheese and the pine nuts. Check the filling for seasoning, adding the remaining 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt if needed.

Spoon the squash filling into the roasted shells.

Bake the squash at 400-degrees for 15 minutes or until the filling is hot and bubbly. You can prepare ahead to this point, then reheat in a 350-degree oven for about 20-30 minutes before topping with the breadcrumbs.

Melt the remaining teaspoon of butter in a small sauté pan with the remaining 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Stir and cook over medium heat until the breadcrumbs are toasted.

Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs over the top of the baked squash and garnish with additional cheese.

*I use leftover multi-grain bread for the breadcrumbs. Run the leftover bread through your food processor until finely chopped. Freeze any leftovers.

Tiny Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

Tiny Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

Most Southern kitchens have at least one or two recipes for cheese straws or a member of the cheese pastry family. These tiny cheddar cheese biscuits – loaded with sharp cheddar cheese are a fun alternative to cheese straws and the perfect vehicle to transport a creamy pimento cheese, chicken salad or any number of your favorite toppings.

Tiny Cheddar Cheese Biscuits with Emily’s Pimento Cheese.

Delicate little cheese pastries – cheese biscuits are a cross between a buttery Southern biscuit (albeit a very flat biscuit!) and a classic cheese straw. The ingredients start with those similar to pastry dough and biscuits – flour, butter and kosher salt but with a mound of tangy cheddar added to the mix. And if you like a little bite of heat then cayenne pepper brings just the right touch.

Cheddar cheese biscuits come together quickly and though it takes a bit of time to roll them out, the recipe makes over 10 dozen biscuits and they freeze beautifully.

A note on the cheese – freshly grated cheese is always best for cooking and baking. Pre-packaged grated cheese has a coating added that prevents it from sticking together. A quick run through the food processor using the shredding blade and you can grate a pound of cheese in mere seconds! You want sharp cheddar cheese so the flavor pops but white or yellow cheddar is simply a visual preference.

The flavors of these tender cheese pastries mellow overnight so preparing them ahead of your soirée is a plus. With graduation celebrations, bridal showers and warm weather “get togethers” on the horizon, tiny cheddar cheese biscuits are an old classic that will make a beautiful addition to your event!

Tiny Cheddar Cheese Biscuits

4-1/2 cups flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 pound butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

In a large bowl, whisk the flour and kosher salt together. Add the shredded cheddar cheese, tossing to mix into the flour.

Using a large wooden spoon or your hands blend the softened butter and the cayenne pepper into the cheese and flour mixing until the dough holds when pressed together.

The dough will be crumbly.

Working in batches, gather up a handful and work the dough into a ball. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and flatten it into a disc. Roll the dough gently until it is 1/3” thick. Using a small biscuit cutter – about 1-1/2” in diameter cut out rounds of dough.

Place the biscuits onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat liner or parchment paper.

Bake the cheese biscuits in a 325-degree oven for 20 minutes. They will spread a bit while baking but since there are no leavening agents like actual biscuits, don’t look for them to rise.

Cool on the pan for about ten minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve with pimento cheese, chicken salad or olive tapenades.

For freezing – lay the biscuits on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer until frozen. Then place the biscuits in a freezer bag or container with parchment between layers. They will keep for about 3-6 months in the freezer.

Strawberry and Almond Bread Pudding with Vanilla Custard Sauce

Strawberry and Almond Bread Pudding with Vanilla Custard Sauce

Strolling through my favorite local Farmer’s Market there was no escaping the intoxicating aroma of the bright red strawberries stacked in neat little bundles. They were going home with me.

I walked into my kitchen, berries in hand and there on the counter sat a golden loaf of Challah bread. I almost always have a loaf of Challah bread in my freezer. I had pulled this loaf out with the intent of making French toast. But now a change of plans – make bread pudding instead and find a way to incorporate those strawberries.

Roasting strawberries brings out a unique quality in the fruit. So it stood to reason that baked strawberries would provide a wonderful balance to the rich custard in bread pudding. Tuck the plump red berries in between bites of the Challah along with toasted almonds – strawberries and almond pair beautifully together. Then add a rich egg custard enhanced with pure vanilla and almond extract plus a splash of Amaretto liqueur.

The baked berries provide an unexpected bright tartness to the bread pudding and the layers of almond flavors are absolutely luscious. And for serving – make a creamy vanilla custard sauce. After all, it is the weekend!

Strawberry and Almond Bread Pudding with Vanilla Custard Sauce

10 cups cubed Challah bread, about 1 loaf

2 cups milk

1 cup half and half

½ cup cream

½ cup Disaronno Amaretto liqueur

6 extra-large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste

2 teaspoons pure almond extract

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2-1/2 cups whole strawberries, rinsed and hulled

½ cup toasted sliced almonds

Spread the bread cubes evenly in a large baking dish that has been lightly sprayed with a cooking spray. (I use a large oval dish that is 15” x 10” 2-1/4” deep but a 13” x 9” dish will also work.) Tuck the strawberries into the bread, distributing evenly. Toss the toasted almonds across the top of the bread and strawberries.

Combine the milk, half and half, the cream, Amaretto liqueur, eggs, vanilla, almond and both sugars together in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended.

Pour the egg custard mixture over the Challah bread cubes. If you’re baking the bread pudding right away, let it stand for at least 30 minutes or until the bread cubes have soaked up the liquid mixture. Press the bread into the liquid as needed to help soak up the egg custard.

Bake the bread pudding at 350-degrees for one hour to one hour and 10 minutes, or until the custard is set in the center. Insert a knife or dip a spoon into the center to check. You don’t want the center to still be “liquid”. If the bread pudding starts to darken too much on top, cover it loosely with a sheet of foil.

You can also prepare this ahead, cover and refrigerate overnight. Allow the bread pudding to come to room temperature, about 30-45 minutes before baking. If the baking dish is still cold to the touch, place it on a rimmed baking sheet, and then place it in the oven. Setting a cold dish on a hot oven rack doesn’t always end well! Refrigerate any leftover portions.

While the bread pudding bakes, make the custard sauce.

Vanilla Custard Sauce

3 extra-large egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1-1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl using low-speed of a hand mixer.

Add the sugar and kosher salt then beat on medium-speed until the eggs are thick and light in color.

Transfer the eggs to the top of a double boiler* set over simmering water (medium-heat).

Add the milk and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, stirring frequently – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Serve warm or at room temperature over the bread pudding.

Refrigerate any leftover sauce.

*If you don’t have a double boiler you can set a heat-resistant bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Warmer days shouldn’t mean soup is off the menu. Often overlooked, cold soups provide a delightful change to warm weather menus. My Mom made cold soups on occasion, including a beautiful cucumber soup. Though not her exact recipe it is a wonderful rendition and I’m certain she would approve.

This refreshing soup is oddly captivating. The subtle tones of cool cucumber are accented with the brightness of fresh fennel and lemon plus a pop of spice from cayenne pepper that gently lingers.

The combination of vegetables and citrus are wonderful on their own but the touch of cream at the end provides a silkiness that is really quite nice.

I played with a number of recipes, tweaking with taste and technique along the way until I landed on the consistency and flavor profile I was after. One big takeaway – take the time to seed the cucumbers. It’s quick and simple to do. After peeling, cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Then take a spoon and scrape the seeds out the center. I made one batch without seeding and though okay, the batch made with seeded cucumbers had a smoother, richer texture.

You can make this soup ahead and thoroughly chill it or serve it right after you make it. Top it with fresh lump crab, plump ripe tomatoes, a few extra crisp cucumbers and a sprig or two of fresh dill – It’s a perfect way to welcome warmer days!

Chilled Cucumber Soup

8 cups peeled, seeded and cubed cucumbers, about 5-7 cucumbers, plus extra for garnish

¼ cup sliced fennel, about half of a small fennel bulb

1 teaspoon lemon zest, about 2 lemons

6 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1-2 lemons

3 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ cup heavy cream

Garnish: lump crab, chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, fresh dill

Place the cucumbers, the fennel, lemon zest and juice along with the kosher salt, sugar, black pepper and cayenne pepper into the container of your blender.

Process the ingredients on low speed until they start to come together then turn the speed up to medium high. Process until the soup is very smooth, about 30-45 seconds.

Transfer the soup to a large bowl and stir in the heavy cream. Chill until you’re ready to serve.

Garnish and enjoy!

Not So Classic Cobb with Pan Roasted Chicken and Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

Not So Classic Cobb with Pan Roasted Chicken and Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

If you’re looking for a wonderful salad for dinner it’s hard to beat the Cobb Salad. Loaded with greens and veggies then topped with hard-boiled eggs, crispy bacon and pan roasted chicken – it’s a feast of color and flavor.

Most versions of a Cobb salad also include crumbled blue cheese but I serve this one dressed with a vintage Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing. Made from creamy mayonnaise and tangy buttermilk it’s layered with shallots, lemon and the nutty spice of cumin before tossing in crumbled blue cheese– it’s a perfect partner for this beautiful salad.

The classic Cobb starts with a blend of iceberg and romaine lettuce. But with the large selection of greens widely available it seems a shame not to use them. Tomatoes and avocados are standard additions but for the Engineer I also include fresh broccoli, cauliflower, sweet carrots and corn. It’s an opportunity to load up on garden fresh vegetables and one not to be missed!

And then there’s the chicken – it should be a star component, not just filler in this hearty salad. Boneless chicken breast have all but taken over the meat cases at food markets. This option has become a consumer favorite since it cooks so quickly – but that also brings a challenge of infusing flavor and keeping the meat moist and tender. Brining the chicken first, then pan searing before a quick roast in the oven provides great results.

Save the drippings from cooking the bacon and use them when sautéing the chicken before roasting – it adds an extra bit of flavor. If you need to plan ahead you can let the chicken brine overnight. And the Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing can be made days in advance – the flavors will continue to deepen and develop.

With a little prep plus minimal cooking time you’ll have a gorgeous feast for your eyes and your taste buds!

Not So Classic Cobb with Pan Roasted Chicken and Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

Start by making the dressing …

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

½ cup mayonnaise

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest from one lemon, about ½ teaspoon

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon ground cumin

1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons minced shallots

4 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese – use your favorite

In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, the buttermilk, lemon juice and zest along with the kosher salt, cumin, minced shallots and crumbled blue cheese. Stir to blend well. Refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.

The dressing keeps for about 2 weeks well chilled. A couple of quick notes… This dressing is not thick – if you’d like a thicker version cut the buttermilk to ½ cup. The taste of the shallots becomes more pronounced as the dressing ages. You can start with 1 tablespoon if like a milder flavor.

Next, brine the chicken:

Makes enough to brine up to 4 pounds of chicken.

 ¼ cup kosher salt

¼ cup dark brown sugar

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

2 teaspoons whole juniper berries

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Zest of one orange, about 1 teaspoon

Juice of two oranges, about ½ cup

4 cups water

1 cup apple juice

½ cup ice

Combine the kosher salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, juniper berries, dried thyme and the orange zest and orange juice in a medium saucepan.

Add the 4 cups of water and heat over medium just until the salt and sugar have dissolved.

Remove from the heat and add the apple juice and ice. Cool completely. Place a large plastic bag inside a baking dish. (This will catch any leaks or drips.) Place the chicken breasts in the bag and pour the cooled brining solution over the meat.

Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 5 hours or overnight.

To cook the chicken:

2 tablespoons bacon drippings or olive oil

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Remove the chicken from the brine about 30-45 minutes before you’re ready to cook it. Rinse it off thoroughly and pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Heat the drippings or the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (Cook the bacon in the same pan you use to roast the chicken to minimize cleanup.) When the drippings are hot add the chicken breasts, sprinkle with the ground pepper and sauté on each side until lightly golden, about 3-4 minutes per side. Do not add extra salt! Note: If the chicken breasts are large, sear in batches. If the pan is crowded they will steam and not brown.

Transfer the chicken to a 350-degree oven and cook for 20 minutes or until done. The juices should run clear when a sharp knife is inserted in the thickest part of the breast meat. Let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.

To assemble the salad:

4 cups mixed greens

1 large carrot, scraped or peeled then sliced

1 ripe avocado, chopped

10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup fresh chopped broccoli

1 cup fresh chopped cauliflower

4 fresh Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

3 hard or soft boiled eggs, sliced

6 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked until very crispy

3-4 boneless chicken breasts, about 2-1/2 to 4 pounds, roasted and sliced

Toss the greens and vegetables together in a large bowl. Top with the boiled eggs and the chopped bacon. Serve with slices of the roast chicken and buttermilk blue cheese dressing.

Tortellini with Asparagus, Chicken and Lemon Cream Sauce

Tortellini with Asparagus, Chicken and Lemon Cream Sauce

Fresh asparagus is at its best in the spring –and there is something amazing about the pairing of asparagus and pasta with a lemon cream sauce. This dish might sound complicated but with a few shortcuts it’s on the table in no time.

I’ll admit when I had mapped this out for dinner my intention was to make the tortellini from scratch and roast a chicken. But my day much like my week had not gone according to plan. So by late morning I realized this was perhaps a bit ambitious and plan B was in order. Luckily, there are a number of fresh pasta options in most food markets. So after a quick trip to the market to load up on pasta, a roasted chicken, some fresh asparagus and lemons I had dinner back on track.

Some tips to highlight a few of the key ingredients. Start by roasting the asparagus – cooking time is about ten minutes and the flavor achieved by roasting versus boiling or steaming is quite remarkable.

For the cheese, I use Sartori’s Tuscan Blend- it’s a beautiful duo of high-quality Parmesan and Fontina, shaved and perfect for cooking or garnishing. My choice for filled pasta is Buitoni’s, usually found in the deli area with fresh cheese and meats. Their Three Cheese Tortellini is a wonderful pasta for this recipe and also great to keep in your freezer for last minute meals. And always, always use fresh lemons. The fresh zest and juice provide the right balance for the delicate sauce.

The result is a creamy lemon sauce with bright notes of citrus gently coating roasted asparagus, chicken and cheese-filled tortellini. Beautiful. Elegant. Easy.

Tortellini with Asparagus, Chicken and Lemon Cream Sauce

1 pound fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, divided

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced, about 1-1/2 cups (8-ounce package)

1 small shallot, thinly sliced, about 1-1/2 tablespoons

2 -1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, one small lemon

2 teaspoons lemon zest, about 2 lemons

3 cups heavy cream

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ cup shaved or grated cheese, preferably a blend of Parmesan and Fontina, plus extra for garnish

1 large package cheese-filled tortellini, 20-ounces

2 cups chopped roasted chicken breast

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish

 

Rinse the asparagus and snap the tough ends off the bottoms of the stalks.

The ends will naturally snap off where the asparagus stalk goes from tough to tender.

Spread the stalks out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.

Roast at 400-degrees for 10 minutes until the asparagus is tender crisp. The point of a sharp knife should easily pierce the stalk. If the stalks are very thin or thick just adjust the cooking time a few minutes. When the asparagus is cool enough to handle cut it into 1”-2” pieces.

In a large, deep saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and the shallots and sauté until the mushrooms are golden and the shallots are translucent, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and the lemon zest, the cream, the remaining 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and the nutmeg.

Continue cooking the sauce over medium heat for about five minutes or until the cream has thickened – then reduce the heat to low. Don’t let the cream boil or it will curdle. Cook the tortellini in a large stockpot full of gently boiling, heavily salted water until it is just tender, about 7 minutes. Add the cooked tortellini to the cream sauce along with the chicken, the asparagus, the cheese and the parsley. Stir to cover thoroughly with the cream sauce.

Serve with extra cheese and a sprinkling of parsley.

 

Berry, Berry Smoothies

Berry, Berry Smoothies

There are days in the South that we all have a “love-hate” relationship with spring. The warmer weather has the trees budding which also means there’s a golden glow of pollen over everything! But the berries have arrived in the markets and that’s the “love” part for sure! Most of us tend to get carried away at the Farmer’s Market and come home with a bounty of produce. After a recent trip to the local Farmer’s Market I have an abundance of berries in my fridge so I decided to make smoothies.

Certainly not a new concoction, smoothies have been around for decades, even dating back centuries according to food historians. But they gained immense popularity in the late 60s and 70s. Smoothies consist of basic ingredients usually including a combination of fruits, either dairy such as milk or half and half or a fruit juice with fresh or frozen yogurt for additional creaminess.

The first smoothie in this berry duet is a Blueberry Maple Cinnamon Smoothie. It has layers of flavor and slightly resembles the notes of a blueberry cobbler – minus the crust. Loaded with fresh blueberries, plus some yogurt, milk, sweet maple syrup and a touch of spice from cinnamon – it’s wonderful for brunch or an afternoon break.

Then what to do with the leftover blueberries and the pints of blackberries. The simple combination of blackberries and blueberries for a Double Berry Smoothie was a great fit. A touch of apple juice and vanilla yogurt brought the berries together in a beautiful blend. It’s perfect for a breakfast on the go. And if your berries are not as sweet as you’d like, add a tablespoon or two of maple syrup or honey to the mix.

If you still have leftover berries here’s a simple trick for storing them in the freezer – Rinse and dry them thoroughly, then spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet and flash freeze them. Once frozen, bag them in measured quantities for later.

Off to the market for more berries!

Blueberry Maple Cinnamon Smoothie

Serves 2-4

¾ cup milk

1 cup blueberry yogurt

2 tablespoons maple syrup

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups blueberries, frozen

Pour the milk into the blender container then add the yogurt, maple syrup and cinnamon.

Add the frozen blueberries.

Process starting on low for about ten seconds, then blend on high for about 30 seconds or until smooth and creamy. Serve well chilled.

Double Berry Smoothie

Serves 2-4

½ cup apple juice

1 cup vanilla yogurt

2 cups blackberries, frozen

1 cup blueberries, frozen

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey, optional

Pour the apple juice into the blender container then add the yogurt.

Add the frozen blackberries and blueberries.

Process starting on low for about ten seconds, then blend on high for about 30 seconds or until smooth and creamy.

Serve well chilled.

Sausage, Tomato and Three Cheese Frittata with Mixed Greens

Sausage, Tomato and Three Cheese Frittata with Mixed Greens

The best way to describe a frittata is to say it’s a cross between a baked omelet and a crustless quiche. It’s the perfect dish for breakfast or brunch but is also wonderful for lunch or dinner menus.

Frittatas are extremely versatile and can be a fabulous vessel for any number of ingredients. Include your favorite vegetables and cheese – prepare with or without meat and toss in some herbs and seasoning. The combinations are endless.

Emily frequently makes frittatas when we drop in on her and Matthew. This frittata is a version from a recipe she shared with me. Chicken sausage is paired with ripe, sweet cherry tomatoes that have been roasted with marjoram, olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. I frequently have leftover cherry tomatoes that are a day or so too ripe – beginning to “wrinkle” a bit and not so pretty in their appearance. But they work beautifully for roasting.

The chicken sausage and roasted tomatoes are blended into the eggs along with fresh mixed greens and layers of nutty Jarlsberg cheese, creamy ricotta and an always-wonderful Romano cheese.

I use four links of mild Italian chicken sausage which is about 15-ounces. The Engineer likes meat. But Emily uses three links, about 12-ounces. For the greens you can use spinach, Swiss chard, arugula or kale – one or a combination. Then top the piping hot frittata with more of the creamy ricotta to create a scrumptious sauce for this rich and savory dish. Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner is served!

Sausage, Tomato and Three Cheese Frittata with Mixed Greens

2 cups cherry tomato, about 25

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon aged balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram, or ½ teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

12-15 ounces chicken Italian sausage, casings removed

8 extra-large eggs

1 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese

¼ cup grated Romano cheese

2 cups mixed greens – baby spinach, baby Swiss chard and arugula

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

1 carton ricotta cheese, 15-ounces, divided

2 tablespoons butter

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with a cooking spray. Add the tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar and the marjoram along with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Toss to mix and coat the tomatoes.

Roast the tomatoes at 350-degrees for 30 minutes, stirring after about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a 10″ ovenproof skillet (use either a non-stick or stick resistant skillet). Heat over medium and once the oil is hot toss in the chicken sausage breaking it up as you sauté it. Continue cooking until the meat is no longer pink and the sausage is cooked through.

Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon and place it on a plate lined with a paper towel. Wipe the skillet out and spray with a cooking spray.

Place the eggs, ¼ cup of the ricotta cheese along with the remaining ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper into a medium-mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs until they are light and fluffy.

Stir in the sausage, the Jarlsberg cheese, the Romano cheese, the mixed greens and the parsley.

In the skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter has melted and is foamy, pour in the egg mixture and scatter in the tomatoes. Transfer the skillet to a 350-degree oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the eggs are just set. The frittata will continue cooking from the heat of the skillet after it is removed from the oven.

Spread the remaining ricotta cheese over the top of the baked frittata. Let it rest for about 10 minutes to set up before serving – sprinkle with a bit of extra Jarlsberg if desired.