Pumpkin is an ingredient I get obsessed with this time of year. Its bright orange shell is such a relief during a season when color is fading away and the grey of winter is settling in. In fact, I am determined to paint a room the color of roasted pumpkin this year. But, my love of pumpkin goes beyond its mood lifting color, I adore its luscious texture, its ability to marry with both sweets and savory, and its earthy sweetness. I’ve heard there are folks that don’t share my enthusiasm for this gorgeously colored gourd, but I’ll eat roasted pumpkin with a pat of butter and a sprinkle of salt. It is even more wonderful in desserts; pumpkin creme brulee, classic pie, breads and cheesecake. When it is pureed smooth, it has a custard like texture, so it lends itself beautifully to this silky pumpkin cheesecake. For a contrast to the velvety cheesecake, I’ve added candied almond crunch and a dollop of Amaretto whipped cream. (more…)
Sometimes great ideas can come from the strangest places. Who would have imagined that spending my birthday, in the rain, making S’mores with people I didn’t know could have been so much fun and such creative inspiration? In November my good friend and partner in many culinary adventures, Jen, treated me to a luxurious night at a resort. As bad luck would have it, it was pissing rain all night, which may have stopped the average souls from sharing a bottle of wine by the beach. Jen and I bundled up, grabbed blankets, umbrellas and sat in the rain by the fire. Apparently this scene was odd enough to attract the attention of a lovely, adventure seeking couple (Sue and Anton), who pulled up a soaking wet bench and joined us. The only thing missing in this rather bizzarre setting were sticks with marshmallows. Not for long! Sue disappeared and came back with a “S’more kit.” It seemed perfectly right at the moment to be drinking a lovely bottle of red wine and singeing marshmallows in the fire, while balancing an umbrella. They were perfection, albeit too sweet and not as good as I remember them from childhood. The concept of chocolate sandwiched between graham crackers and toasted puffs of whipped sugar is brilliant, but once you hit 40, one’s taste-buds crave a little more complexity and less unadorned SWEET.
This moment deserved remembering and the S’more begged to be reinvented. This small bite of homemade cinnamon graham cookies, chocolate ganache and toasted almond meringue is my take on the classic. But, I added a hidden treasure. Under the cloud of meringue lies coconut and a candied pecan. The texture and richness of the nut are just what the S’more was always missing for me. I suggest you bring them to a superbowl party, but leave a few at home to snack on later. (more…)
Yesterday was my 20th wedding anniversary. I asked my husband what he wanted to have for dessert on our special day. After being together for 25 years I could predict what he would pick; either Madeleines or the nut cake his mom used to make him when he was young. The nut cake won instantly. My mother-in-law used to make the cake with ground hazelnuts, Cool Whip and canned peaches. She gave me the recipe for the cake once, but it read like something out of a fairy tale, “a thimble full of this” and “a jigger of that,” nothing was ever written down and she did the entire thing by feel. I have been meaning to spend a day in the kitchen with her to get the recipe written down, but for our anniversary I used one of my all time favorites, toasted almond dacquoise. It is light, which is perfect for the last days of August, and both chewy and crunchy at the same time. I toast the nuts first to give it a richer flavor and add an extra dash of salt to contrast the sweetness. Combined with chocolate ganache, freshly whipped cream, the summer’s juiciest peaches and candied almonds, it was not exactly my MIL’s recipe, but my husband declared it “perfection!” This, my friends, is why we are still married after 20 years. 😉 (more…)
Everything about a macaron says France. They are sophisticated, gorgeous, delicious and have a romance to them; a certain je ne sais quoi? (That was gratuitous, but I couldn’t help throwing in one of the few French phrases I can actually pronounce.) But, it is true, they have a mystique to them that is both alluring and intimidating, like a really gorgeous woman; think Catherine Deneuve and Brigit Bardot. When you bite into them they are just as beautiful on the inside, and inviting, even seductive. I can eat my entire body weight in these nut-meringue cookies and still want for more. What on Earth does all of this have to do with St. Patrick’s day you might ask? I admit it is a stretch, but I really wanted to make them and they are adorable in green. I added a bit of mint to the ganache and voila, you have minty macarons for St. Patrick’s day! (more…)