Friday, January 20, 2012

Mini-Appetizers & Desserts

I had posted on here asking for ideas for mini-appetizers and desserts, I thought I'd post the menu I ended up going with. It was for my Great Gatsby book club meeting, so I wanted to do finger foods that looked a little fancy — it was as much about the presentation as it was the food:).

Shrimp Cocktail Shooters
with Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce
For the Bloody Mary cocktail sauce, I mixed ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and vodka. Placed a spoonful in the bottom of a plastic shot glass. Skewered 2 large shrimp and 1 green olive together and placed them on the glass.

Caprese Sticks
One marinated mozzarella ball and one grape tomato wrapped in a basil leaf and skewered. I also placed these across the plastic shot glasses, just because I thought they looked cool.

Greek Salad Bites
Layered a cucumber slice, ½ kalamata olive, a block of feta cheese and a grape tomato.

Spicy Cucumber Cups—Two Ways
Filled ½ cucumber cups with a spicy crab dip (the pink one, pictured here. I purchased the dip at the fish stand. The others with Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce, chopped peanuts and cilantro

Crisped Sopressatta with Olive Bread, Mustards and Tapenade
Placed strips of soppresatta in the oven to crisp up. Served with bread and little dishes of mustards and tapenade.

Chocolate & PB Mousse
Layered chocolate pudding, peanut butter mousse and chocolate mousse. Topped with Dove Peanut Butter Chocolate Baking Chips (YUM).

Friday, January 13, 2012


Nine years ago, when I started my in home cooking Personal Chef Service, I also started doing Thanksgiving prep for one of my dearest college friends. Her family loves my roasted pumpkin soup, and requests it year after year after year. The original recipe is delicious, but labor intensive.

Roasted pumpkin soup
1 medium pumpkin, about 4 pounds
1 T butter
2 slices bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
6 c chicken stock
½ c heavy cream, plus 1 c, for garnish
¼ c orange juice
large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper
whole leaves flat-leaf parsley, as a garnish
1 T chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
Preheat the oven to 375°. Halve the pumpkin from top to bottom and place it, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet. Bake until the pumpkin can be easily skewered, 45-60 minutes. Cool for about 20 minutes. With a spoon, remove the seeds and discard. Scrape the pulp and reserve. Discard the skin. Melt butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and the bacon is just turning golden, about 7 minutes. Add the pumpkin and stock and simmer until the pumpkin falls apart, about 30 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes. In batches, puree the soup in a blender on high speed, 3 minutes per batch, until very smooth. Strain through a fine mesh into a clean soup pot and add the cream, orange juice and nutmeg. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, correct the consistency with additional water or stock. Chop 1 tablespoon chipotle pepper. Whip 1 cup cream to soft peak. Stir peppers into cream. Ladle the hot soup into bowls. Spoon dollop of chipotle cream into soup.

As my business grew, more people wanted Roasted pumpkin soup that I could start in their crockpots the day or two before Thanksgiving. Now, every year for Thanksgiving I make vats of roasted pumpkin soup with chipotle cream (one year I made eleven!), so I needed a modified recipe, I didn’t have time for cooking bacon from raw, cutting and cooking pumpkins, pureéing soup, and whipping cream (not to mention, fresh whipped cream doesn’t keep well for a day or two). Enter new recipe ... liquid smoke simulates smoky taste of bacon, canned pumpkin pureé and onion powder eliminate the need for roasting actual pumpkin and pureéing end product, and mascarpone cream is a nice substitute for the whipping cream, and also the tanginess of the mascarpone balances the sweet pumpkin soup nicely.

Slow cooker roasted pumpkin soup with chipotle cream
1 lg can pumpkin pureé
6 c chicken stock (or vegetable stock, for vegetarian soup)
½ t liquid smoke
%frac14; t onion powder
¼ t salt
1/8 t pepper
¼ c orange juice
1/8 t nutmeg, freshly grated
1 small tub mascarpone cream
1 T adobo sauce, from chipotles with adobo sauce
Place pumpkin, stock, liquid smoke, onion powder, salt, pepper, and orange juice in the slow cooker on low for 6 hours. Combine mascarpone and adobo sauce, store in refrigerator until ready to serve. When ready to serve, ladel soup into bowls, grate nutmeg over soup, and top with a dollop of mascarpone-chipotle cream.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Classic Creme Brulee

My daughter Holland has wanted to try making Creme Brulee. While I enjoy baking, I always thought it was something that took more time and patience (and possibly talent) than I had, so I had never tried. A friend of mine lent her a recipe book and blow torch, so this weekend, she gave it a shot. Early Sunday she mixed up and baked the custard. We let it cool and kept it in the fridge, then after dinner, together we torched it. It was delicious, and quite easy. I think we are all hooked!

Classic Creme Brulee
8 egg yolks
1/3 c granulated white sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 c granulated white sugar (for the carmelized tops)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is think and pale yellow. Add cream and vanilla and continue to whisk until well blended. Strain into a large bowl, skimming off any foam or bubbles.

Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups. Place in a water bath and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 40-50 minutes. Longer baking time will be required for larger, deeper ramekins. Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled. Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 tsp. of sugar over each custard. For best results, use a small, hand-held torch to melt sugar. If you don't have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts. Re-chill custards for a few minutes before serving. Serves 6.

*We used small ramekins and found 2 tsp. to make the sugar a little too thick, so we went with just enough to really give a thin coating. It was perfect!