Saturday, July 18, 2009

Quick Greek Salad

A quick but simple summer lunch can be made by throwing together an assortment of veggies, cheese, olive oil and vinegar. Add a fistful of chopped herbs, a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper and you've made a lunch your friends and colleagues will envy.
Keeping this formula in mind, I used feta cheese, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and mint for a refreshing and healthy luncheon salad. Feel free to substitute the the red onion for scallions, add bell pepper. or even fresh oregano. This salad is easy to customize to your own taste. Keep it cool in the frig at work, or in an insulated bag with an ice pack.
Quick Greek Salad

1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved and sliced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
handful fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 teaspoons olive oil

coarse sea salt freshly ground black pepper

Toss all ingredients in a bowl, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Chocolate Chestnut Torte

My friend Lynn of Jardins des Thevenet, is a brilliant cook. She created this rich, delectable torte one night as an end to a unbelievably delicious dinner. She manage to whip up dinner for 12, within 2 hours. The menu began with Skate enveloped in Cream and Capers on Garlic Pureed Potatoes followed by the main course Duck Braised in Vinegar and Stock served atop Fresh Pasta.
The dessert, a Chocolate Chestnut Torte on a bed of Yogurt flavored with Chestnut Puree finished the meal. We sat around the table enjoying coffee and conversation until the wee hours.
It was no easy feat getting together all the essential items for this tart. Lynn used a heart shaped silicone mini cake pan.
Creme des Marrons, which can be found on Amazon, but I had the good fortune to have my friend Uju bring me several cans from Paris.
Everything else I had in my pantry. Once I had all the ingredients it was a 10 minute process to put this torte together.
I had fresh raspberries in the refrigerator so I pureed them with a little sugar and lemon juice. I think Framboise with be a delightful addition. Alcohol always bring out the flavor of fruit.
This is a simple dessert that packs a wallop of flavor and perfect for those times you want to WOW you guests.

Chocolate Chestnut Torte

1/3 cup good quality dark chocolate, I used Scharffenberger Dark Chocolate
1/2 cup salted butter
2/3 cup or Creme de Marrons
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt, chocolate and butter together in a medium size saucepan. Stir until smooth. Off the heat heat, stir in the chestnut puree. Add the eggs one at a time stirring until they are fully incorporated.
Pour into silicone molds, Fill about 1/2 up and bake until firm, about 20 minutes.
Makes 9 tortes
Serve with plain yogurt flavored with Creme de Marrons. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Or raspberry puree made with 1 pint raspberries, pureed with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon Framboise or Kirshwasser
The only problem is the family member that doesn't want to wait for these tortes to cool.
Join me at Jardins des Thevenets on a cooking holiday, where we will make this tart as well as many other wonderful dishes.

All recipes and text are property of The Gypsy Chef

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Figs with Goat Cheese and Red Chili Jam

Impromptu parties are always fun. But the dilemma is what to serve to guests who now expect great things from you. I hate to let people down and but hate to spend my life in the kitchen while the party is going on. Last night was no exception.
Every Summer I serve figs until my family and friends are sick of them. I've roasted them wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled in honey, topped them with creme fraiche and pink peppercorns. I've served them as a dessert tart atop pastry creme and brushed with apricot jam, I've even made fig ice cream. This time I cut them in half, placed a spot of goat cheese on the cut side
and garnished it with the Chile Jam I had bought in Exeter, Devon at a Christmas Fair. They were ready in 5 minutes and were delicious! My figs were gone in a flash and suddenly I was giving out the recipe to everyone. I swear it's the Chili Jam that makes them so special. When this jar is gone, I am going to have to make some!
Stay tuned for a Chili Jam blog!

All text and pictures are property of The Gypsy Chef

Monday, July 13, 2009

Presto Pesto!

Pesto is the perfect fast food. It's quick, easy and versatile. Like everyone else in the western world I use it to dress pasta, add cream to enrich it as a sauce and I also add mayo to turn it into a sandwich spread. One of our favorite panini is made with pesto, mozzarella and spicy capocollo.

The best pesto I ever had was in at "da Costantino Qua se Magno", a deli in Rome. It was around the corner from our hotel, Hotel Italia. The pesto was bright green, fragrant and full of flavor. In broken Italian and English we found it had been made with young, tender Genovese Basil leaves. We were told this ensured a sweet and fresh flavor. We devoured it and went back for more everyday.
Just yesterday an old friend from high school ask me if I had a good pesto recipe. Myra had an abundance of beautiful fresh basil in her garden. I immediately went back in time to Rome and knew I had to relive one of those unforgettable meals. I whipped up the pesto with some organic basil I had gotten at the farmer's market
It's easy! Place the pine nuts, garlic, salt into a food processor
and process until chopped
add the basil leaves
while processing, pour in the oil.
and process until smooth.
In a large bowl add the pesto to the pasta, I like to add my cheese at this point.
and garnished the dish with a few oven roasted tomatoes.
Colorful, aromatic and flavorful it was a treat for the eyes as well as the mouth!
Buon Appetito!

Genovese Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat side of a knife
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Pick all the basil leaves from the stalks and wash thoroughly.
Place the pine nuts, garlic, salt and basil leaves in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the oil in the feed tube, and blend until the oil is incorporated.
Remove to a bowl and beat in the cheese by hand, or add as you toss it with pasta.
*If you are planning to serve the pesto with pasta, add 1 tablespoon of the pasta water to it at this time.
Two American gentleman enjoying a Roman Feast!

Text and recipes are property of The Gypsy Chef