Friday, December 30, 2011

What Are You Doing New Years Eve?

What a year! It was filled with friends, family, new babies, new lessons, changes, and laughter. Loved ones were lost and new loves were found. All and all I feel like 2011 treated me well, my goals were met and I exceeded my expectations of myself which has left me with a great new confidence as I head into 2012. New actions plans are in place and I am ready to conquer with excitement! Bring it on 2012. I am ready for you.

What are you doing New Years Eve? If you are looking for a meal to celebrate the accomplishments of 2011 and the richeness of life then I have the perfect meal for you. I had the pleasure of learning how to make it on Christmas and was taught to me by Carmen Assenti of Assenti Pasta in Little Italy. The best pasta shop in town!
Crab & Lobster Lasagna with B├ęchamel Sauce
It is so delicious and the perfect meal to ring in the New Year with. Nothing like a rich elaborate meal for New Years Eve. It's something wouldn't make or eat all the time which really makes you feel like you are celebrating.
Bechamel Sauce
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup and 2 table spoons of flour
4 cups of milk
salt & pepper to taste
ground nutmeg to taste
4 fresh sheets of lasagna pasta
4 cups of fresh spinach chiffonade cut
2 cups of fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cloves of garlic
2 lobster tails (steamed and partially uncooked)
2 cups fresh crab meat
2 cups fresh mozzarella cheese
2 cups fresh Parmesan cheese
Now for the Directions
Organization is key. Prepare all of your ingredients and set up your Mise En Place.
Preheat over to 350 degreesMake sure to have all your lasagna sheets cut to size to fit in the pan perfectly. You can always patch things up if mistakes are made so save the extra scraps.Make the bechamel sauce first. Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Once melted add flour whisking constantly till a thick golden roux is formed. Slowly poor in milk constantly whisking. You want to whisk until the sauce is thick and coats the back of a spoon. It can take up to 20 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Set aside to cool.Lightly beat the egg and add the minced garlic to it.Fold in ricotta cheese to the egg mixture and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. This ricotta cheese is sweet and goes perfect with seafood. Good to enough to eat by itself. Yep...I tried that. Chiffonade fresh spinach. Best way to do this is to roll a bunch together then thinly slice. Set aside.Dice up lobster and set aside in bowl. Place crab in a bowl as well. Once everything is lined up start building your lasagna.Boil lasagna sheets one at a time till al dente. About 2 minutes. Set in a cold bowl of cold water to cool so you can work with it. Lay it down in the bottom of a greased baking dish. Then add a thin layer of ricotta mixture. Next layer crab, lobster, Then add the spinach and drizzle bechamel sauce in rows. Make sure to get it in the corners. Sprinkle a little Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. You don't want too much cheese.Then start the process all over again with another sheet of lasagna. You should end with one sheet of lasagna on top and top that last sheet with bechamel sauce. Cover it with saran wrap and then foil and bake for 45 minutes. If you have left over bechamel sauce you can poor some more over the top when done.Set aside to cool and then cut and enjoy!I hope you have a Happy New Year filled with all the richness that life has to offer.

I leave you in 2011 with a little tune. It is such cute video and love Zooey's voice. It made me really excited to spend my first NYE with him. I can't wait for 2012.
Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

She & Him - Baby, It's Cold Outside

Enjoy some music from my favorite Christmas Album. Yep, this Jewish girl loves listening to Christmas music. Have a very Happy Holiday filled with love, laughter, and delicious food of course.
And stay warm.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Roasted Beet & Asparagus Salad with Crispy Shallots and Goat Cheese

Tonight is the first night of The Festival Of Lights. I am so looking forward to celebrating it with my parents, close friends and him. We will light candles, eat, and open presents all while drinking my fathers wines of his choice. One being a 1975 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. I am keeping my fingers crossed that I might be tasting the best wine I have ever tasted and not vinegar. It's bottle has been set up straight so the sediments make their way to the bottom of the bottle, and we are all awaiting its corking.
My mother is making her famous brisket which is the best brisket ever. (who wants to have a Mama's Famous Brisket Throw Down?) Also on the menu are sweet potato and potato latkes served with apple sauce and sour creme. I, myself am an apple sauce kind of girl. I will be assisting my mom with the latkes and making the salad. This salad is fantastic for any day or holiday. It can even be a meal on its own.
Roasted Beet & Asparagus Salad with Crispy Shallots and Goat Cheese
4 beets
3 shallots
1 bunch asparagus
goat or feta cheese
arugula or mixed greens
olive oil
good balsamic vinegar
2 table spoons tiny diced shallots
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
salt & pepper to taste

This salad is done in several steps but once the ingredients are prepped and ready to go you throw it together and it makes a brilliant salad.
Balsamic Vinaigrette
Add mustard, honey, 2 tablespoons diced shallots, and vinegar to a bowl and whisk until it emulsifies. Slowly poor in the oil while continuously whisking until thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Roasted Beets & Asparagus
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Boil water in a pot, wash the beets, cut off the tops of them, add them to the boiling water for about 15-20 minutes. In a cold ice bath of water remove the beets one by one and use your hands to peel the beets. This should be easy. If its hard add the beets back to the boiling water. Make sure to keep your hands and beets under the water to avoid your hands from dying red. Dry the beets and cut them into 6-8 wedges and add to a baking dish. Add 1/4 cup of the dressing and coat the beets. Roast for about 30 minutes until they caramelize. When done set aside to cool.Cut the asparagus in to thirds. On a baking sheet toss with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for 20-30 minutes till done but not soggy. Set aside to coolCrispy Shallots
Thinly slice the shallots. In a non-stick pan on high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil add the shallots. Make sure there is 1 layer of shallots they all brown evenly. Flip once brown and brown on the other side. Set aside to cool.I used feta cheese in this salad but goat cheese would be a fine choice as well.To assemble salad place lettuce on a platter, layer with the beets first, asparagus and shallots, then goat cheese. Toss with dressing and serve at room temperature.
Enjoy and I hope your 8 nights of Hanukkah are happy and crazy ones.

Monday, December 19, 2011

TDF 's Top 5 Sweet & Savory Gifts

Tis the season for eating and I have been doing a little too much of it the last week.
Holiday parties, the cold weather, and it doesn't help that I am working at a cheese shop and constantly snacking on the best cheeses in the world. I am being exposed to amazing condiments, chocolates, and snacks. I have discovered some of my favorite holiday treats and even though its a little late I know there are some last minute shoppers searching for the perfect gift. Well look no more! Not only are these decadent delights great gifts but a must to have in your own kitchen too.
Enjoy, and go out and get-em now!
Chocopologie's Burnt Caramel & Hawaiian Sea Salt chocolate Bar by Knipschildt Chocolatier.This the the best chocolate bar I have ever had. The sweet caramel that oozes out of every square and crisp crystals of salt every so often really give your mouth a roller-coaster-of-a- ride.
The next best thing on my list is White Truffle Honey. Yep, sweet sticky honey with truffles. It is an fantastic appetizer. I brought it to a holiday party last night and served it with a German blue cheese Cambozola Black Label (one of the hosts was from Germany), a drizzle of truffle honey and a fresh baguette.
It is also fantastic drizzled on vanilla ice creme or aside a bread pudding. If you know a real foodie get them this. They will be thanking you forever.
My next favorite treat is made by The Girl + The Fig in Sonoma, Ca. It is their Apple Raisin, Fig Mustardo. It is made with 2 kinds of raisins, apples, figs and toasted mustard seeds and seasoned with flavors of ginger, rosemary, Cinnamon and coriander. It is amazing on a grilled cheese sandwich (my discovery at work) or serve it a top a roasted pork tenderloin. The options are endless with this one. You should also try their Red Onion Confit. Its sitting in my pantry waiting for the perfect turkey and cheese sandwich.
Wabash Valley Farms Amish Country Baby White PopcornI bought this popcorn at World Market and no other popcorn has compared since. I pop it fresh with a little olive oil in a pot and drizzle melted butter and salt on top of it. It is simply the best.
This one kind of ties into number 4.
Truffle SaltSprinkle this rich salt on popcorn, ricotta cheese atop a crispy baguette or burrata cheese.
Delightful in every way.
And the fifth sweet and savory gift is my new favorite cheese. Prima Donna. This cows milk cheese is from Holland and has the sweetness of parmigiano and nuttiness of Gruyere. Also a great melter for a grilled cheese sandwich. Every person that tries it loves it.

So that sums it up. Off to work out now because tomorrow begins the Festival Of Lights. Nothing like fried latkes.
I wish you a Sweet and Savory Holiday Season.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cheese On Earth

Wow it has been a while since my last post and I promise I have a good explanation for that. As if life isn't crazy enough this time of year I have decided to add a few more extra curricular activities to my list. On top of my Wines Of the World class ending in 2 weeks, my day job, holiday parties, holiday shopping, working out, and a social life I decided to join a writers work shop group and I also took on a weekend holiday job at a local cheese shop. So you can imagine my schedule is super full. The best part is I love it all. I am having the best time. I feel like I am finally living and doing things I wouldn't have done 2 years ago when my path was clearly different.
I learned so much about wine this past semester. I have a new appreciation for wine and I am learning about varieties I didn’t even know existed such as a Pinoatage from South Africa. I also learned that I like Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand for the grassy and passion fruit smell and medium body and high acidity taste. Much different then the bready and buttery Sauvignon Blancs we have in California. I learned that champagne pairs best with potato chips and French fries and not chocolate and the smaller the bubbles the better the champagne. I didn’t even think I liked white wines before this class. Also I knew I liked red wines but couldn’t describe what I liked the most about them. I like dark red wines that are full bodied and are dirty, smokey, earthy, rich, leathery, and spicy in taste and smell. I like the wines that deliver in smell and taste and occasionally surprise me with contrast. I can’t say that if you asked me to describe the kind of wines I liked before taking this class I would have been able to do so.

The writers in the writing group I joined are amazing and creative. I know I am going to learn so much from them. The most important thing for me is getting over the fear of reading what I write out loud. What anxiety came up when it was my turn to read as they are all such amazing writers.

The part time holiday weekend job is awesome and I am excited to get up on weekends and go to work. I have always worked retail but food retail? Could this be my calling? I love cheese, and just like wine my cheesy taste buds are being defined with all I am learning and tasting.

So with all the busy activities of the holiday season, and life, my cooking is never put to the side. Speaking of sides, here is a side I think you might want to try to make this holiday season. Its beautiful in color and taste. It is made with cheese on some earthy vegetables and baked till hot. The cheese makes a light, creamy sauce on the bottom of the pan and browns the veggies slightly with a crisp. It tastes fantastic on the side of a leg of lamb, a nice juicy steak or maybe even a roasted chicken. The recipe comes from Ina Garten's cookbook Barefoot in Paris. Perfect for the cold weather. And baby its cold outside.

Vegetable Tian

(serves 4-6)

Good olive oil

2 large yellow onions, cut in half and sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound medium round yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled

3/4 pound zucchini

1 1/4 pounds medium tomatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus extra sprigs

2 ounces of Gruyere cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use any shape 9x13 inch baking dish with olive oil. In a medium saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the baking dish. Slice the potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in 1/4 inch thick slices. Layer them alternately in the dish on top of the onions, fitting them tightly, making only one layer. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and thyme leaves and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Uncover the dish, remove the thyme sprigs, sprinkle the cheese on top and back for another 20-30 minutes, or until browned. Serve warm.

Have a happy busy holiday season and Cheese On Earth.