Enjoy! Because life is too short to deprive the palate!


Mini Caprese: Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Bites

Here's a quick and easy appetizer idea that takes minimal effort, looks dashingly sheik, and boasts the beautiful colors of Christmas! Not to mention, it's bite-sized and delicious, a perfect pairing for a Christmas Cocktail party. C'mon who doesn't love caprese?

Check out my other seasonal twist on Caprese Salad: Sliced Tomato Summer Salad

Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Bites
  • 1 pack Cherry Tomatoes (or however many you need to accommodate your guests!)
  • 1 wedge/package of Mozzarella Cheese
  • Several Fresh Basil Leaves
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper (optional)
*Using a very sharp tomato knife (or serrated knife) cut a thin slice off the top of each cherry tomato. Using a melon baller or metal spoon, carefully scoop out the center of each cherry tomato; do not scrap the edges, only scoop out about 1/2 tsp from each tomato. Discard the centers.

*Carefully cut a very thin slice off the bottom of each tomato. This will allow them to stand up straight on your serving plate. 

*Next, slice the mozzarella into 1/4 inch or smaller squares and tuck them into the centers of the tomato.

*Using a very sharp knife or kitchen shears, cut the basil leaves into long thin strips. Roll the strips up around themselves, and tuck them next to the mozzarella. 

*TO SERVE: Arrange the tomatoes on your platter or serving plate and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and a crack of fresh black pepper. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and wah-lah!

I made these caprese bites, as well as several other "tapas-style" fancy finger foods for my Christmas Party this past friday. I will be updating throughout the week with the recipes to the other goodies I prepared, so stay tuned!

Enjoy :]

<3 Marea


Savory Eggs Benedict with Sautéed Arugula and Shallots- Daring Cook's December Challenge!

Breakfast for dinner is one of those rare yet decidedly delicious events in my household, and last night I saw it as the perfect way to serve up this month's Daring Cook's Challenge. 

"Jenn and Jill have challenged The Daring Cooks to learn to perfect the technique of poaching an egg. They chose Eggs Benedict recipe from Alton Brown, Oeufs en Meurette from Cooking with Wine by Anne Willan, and Homemade Sundried Tomato & Pine Nut Seitan Sausages (poached) courtesy of Trudy of Veggie num num."

While these kind ladies did provide us with recipes, the mandatory part of this month's challenge was the art of poaching an egg. I chose to forgo the recipe and cook up some eggs benedict the way I like it to taste. When out to breakfast, I'm always torn between the florentine and the classic benedict because I want the meat and the greens. So I decided that my recipe would definitely have both. One staple that is always in my refrigerator (and in my garden!) is arugula. I thought the delicate peppery flavor of these sautéed greens with a few slices of shallot and some butter would make a great addition to my benedict dish. 

Before we dive right into the recipe let's talk about "the art of poaching an egg", which for me, is definitely an art. There are a few factors that need to be set in place to procure the perfect poached egg. First of all, you need a skillet that will hold approximately 3 inches worth of water. Adding a pinch of salt and tsp of white vinegar to the water will help the whites harden more quickly and stay together better. Other tips include breaking the eggs into a shallow bowl or coffee cup to ensure that you do not crack the yolk, and also to make the process of pouring the egg into the water easier. I experimented with using a large deep spoon to ladle the egg into the water and found this technique worked best for me. Another trick is bringing the water to a boil and then reducing it to just under a boil before you add the eggs. And finally, gently swirling the water before adding each egg will help to keep the whites together. 

For this recipe you will need a double boiler or two saucepans that fit inside each other, a 3+inch deep skillet, a whisk, a frying pan, a large spoon or small bowl, a slotted spoon, and a good knife. 

Eggs Benedict with Sautéed Arugula and Shallots

  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 English Muffins, halved
  • 4 Slices Canadian Bacon 
  • A handful of Arugula Leaves
  • 1/2 Shallot, sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • Salt and Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Hollandaise Sauce:
    • 3 Egg Yolks
    • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter, Chilled and cut into Tbsp.
    • Juice from 1/2 Lemon
    • 1/2 Tbsp Warm Water
    • 1 tsp Sugar
    • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder 
    • Cayenne, Salt and Pepper, to taste

*Begin by making your hollandaise sauce. Using a double boiler or two slightly different sized saucepans that can rest one inside the other, bring about 2 cups of water to a light boil. In the smaller saucepan whisk the egg yolks with the 1/2 Tbsp of water. Reduce the boiling water to a simmer and place the pan containing the yolks over the water (without touching the pan to the water!) and heat, whisking rapidly. As the yolks begin to thicken, squeeze in the lemon juice, whisking continually. 

*Whisk in the butter, one Tbsp at a time, allowing it to completely melt before adding the next Tbsp. As the yolks thicken and meld with the butter add the sugar and garlic powder. Continue whisking until all butter is added and melted. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper, to taste. Remove from heat, cover to keep warm, and set aside. 

*In a frying pan melt the 1/2 Tbsp of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the arugula and stir to coat with the butter and shallots. Sauté until arugula has wilted, about 1 minute, and then remove from heat. Cover to keep warm. 

*Return the frying pan to the stovetop and heat on high. Add the Canadian Bacon and cook, approximately 2 minutes on each side. Set aside and cover to keep warm.

*While the canadian bacon is cooking, fill your skillet with water 3 inches deep. Add a pinch of salt and a tsp of white vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce to just under boiling and add the eggs following the techniques mentioned above. Depending on how you prefer your yolks cook anywhere from 3-4 minutes. When finished remove your eggs from the water using a slotted spoon and place on a bed of paper towels to dry. Gently pat the edges the egg to remove any excess stray whites. 

*Slice the english muffins into two pieces and toast. I toasted mine in the oven under high broil. 
*Serves 2-4 People*

Someone else thought it looked mighty good too!
TO SERVE: To assemble the benedict place your toasted english muffin halves on the plate and top with one slice of canadian bacon each. Spoon the shallots and arugula over the bacon and top each with one poached egg. Drizzle with the hollandaise sauce and finish with a pinch of cayenne and black pepper. Wah-lah!
I served our benedicts open-faced with a side of pan-fried red potatoes and garnished with thin slices of green onions. 

One big Holiday tradition for our family is good food; Christmas morning, after we've opened all our presents, we start the day off strong with a benedict breakfast. Thanks to this month's Daring Cook's Challenge, I will have the most perfectly poached eggs!

Enjoy :] 



Grilled Hanger Steaks, Caramelized Shallots, & Matchstick Frites with a White Truffle Aioli

For a recent dinner party I wanted to put a classy twist on a classic dish: steak and fries. I wanted a layout that would satiate grown men with hearty appetites but still be delicate and classy for us ladies. After experimenting with my marinade and taking a pairing inspiration from a recipe for Steak and Fries by Martha Stewart, I found a perfect combo - a meal which boasts full palate pleasing flavors and will make a stunning spread for guests.

I found a nifty peeler to julienne vegetables (Safeway- $4 and comes in various colors!) and thought I'd put it to the test making matchstick "frites", which is so much more fun to say than fries, right?! The key is getting them perfectly crispy so they provide that wonderful crunch!

For this recipe you will need a sauté pan, grill pan, baking sheet lined with tin foil, a julienne peeler or mandoline (optional), and a whisk.  

Grilled Hanger Steaks & Caramelized Shallots
  • 1 1/2 lb Hanger Steak
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil- For Marinade+ 4 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided (For Cooking)
  • 1/4 Cup Sherry Vinegar 
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, Pressed
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1/2 Tbsp Herbes de Provence
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • Cayenne
  • 5 Medium Shallots, halved
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
*Begin by rubbing down the hanger steak with salt, pepper, and cayenne (to your heat preference!). In a small bowl, whisk together the 1/4 cup Olive Oil, Sherry, Garlic, Dijon, Worcestershire, and Soy. In a large tupperware, lay out the steak and coat it with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2+ hours. 

*About 20 minutes before the steak has finished marinating, you will want to begin caramelizing your shallots. In a sauté pan heat 2 Tbsp of oil on medium-high. Toss the shallots with the sugar and add to the pan, cooking 2-3 minutes. Shake the pan or stir frequently to ensure even cooking. Add a pinch of salt to speed up the process and season the shallots. Reduce to medium-low, and cook slowly, adding water in 1/4 cup batches as the shallots turn golden. This is called "deglazing" and the water should evaporate quickly while the onions soften and caramelize. This process can take 30-40 minutes. 

*In a grill pan, heat the final 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil over medium-high heat. Add the steak and cook, 10-12 minutes on each side. Baste with any remaining marinade and season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Tent with foil when finished cooking, and let sit for ten minutes. 

Matchstick Frites with a White Truffle Aioli 
  • 2 Large Russet Potatoes, peeled
  • Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp White Truffle Oil
For the Aioli:

  • 3 Tbsp White Truffle Oil
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Pinch of: Sea Salt, White Pepper, Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
*Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 

*Either using a Julienne Peeler, mandoline, or a very sharp knife, julienne the potatoes into extremely thin, long strips. Toss them with sea salt, and a tsp of white truffle oil and spread them out evenly on a tin-foiled baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake, tossing them frequently and turning the pan to ensure even browning. Let bake for 20 minutes. If you find that your potatoes are not cooking evenly, or are not crisping up enough, broil them on high for 2-3 minutes at the end. 

*In a small bowl, combine the truffle oil and the mayonnaise for the aioli, whisking the oil into the mayonnaise slowly to make an emulsion. Add the remaining ingredients and season to taste. 

*Serves 4-6 people

To Serve: Try to time your frites and steaks so that they will finish in the same general time frame. If needed, reheat your shallots. Using a very sharp knife, slice the hanger steaks, being sure to not cut against the grain (I made this mistake the first time I cooked these steaks and while it was still delicious, the meat was very chewy and tougher than it should have been!) 

Prepare your plates with slices of steak, a garnish of frites, and a dollop of aioli. Pair with a small salad, such as greens topped with cherry and sunburst tomatoes, and tossed with a light vinaigrette.  

Wine Pairings: My lovely friend Rachel brought a bottle of Pinot Noir which was absolutely delightful with the flavors in the meat and goes well with grilled meats. I would also recommend a Syrah which pairs quite nicely with red meats and herbed sauces. 

This meal makes a lovely addition to any winter menu. 

Enjoy :]


Linking this post to Friday Potluck #13 @ EkatsKitchen 


Homemade Chicken Pot Pies

Another cold weather favorite and definite comfort food for me has always been Chicken Pot Pie. This recipe is fairly simple and can be pre-made and frozen, and then baked at a later date. Also, the ingredients are ones you may already have in your pantry and freezer, or ones that you can buy and store ahead of time, which makes this meal good for a midweek, low-key dinner. Plus, if you are cooking for a couple or a small family, this recipe ensures leftovers, which are absolutely delicious for lunch the next day. Of course, if you still have Thanksgiving Turkey leftovers, sub them in! Delicious!

For this recipe you will need: 1- 9inch round Baking Dish, Pie Weights (optional), a Spatula, a Medium Mixing Bowl, Measuring cups and spoons, Wooden Spoon, and a Medium-Sized Frying Pan. 
Chicken Pot Pies
  • 2 Cups or 2 Medium Chicken Breasts, rubbed down with:
    • Garlic Powder, Italian Spices, and Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
  • 2 Pre-Made or Homemade Pie Crusts (Recipe Here
  • 1/2 Vidalia Onion, Diced
  • 1/2 Cup Diced Carrots
  • 1/2 Cup Peas, fresh or previously frozen
  • 1/2 Cup Corn, fresh or previously frozen
  • 1/2 Cup Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1/2 Cup Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1/2 Cup Chicken Broth
  • 1/4 Cup Cream
  • 1 bunch of Fresh Sage
  • Several Sprigs of Fresh Thyme
*Preheat your oven to 350 Degrees F.

*In a medium frying pan heat 1 Tbsp of Olive Oil over Medium High heat. Add the seasoned Chicken Breasts and increase heat to High. Cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side. Remove chicken from pan and cover. *Chicken should still be slightly pink in the center!*

*While your chicken is cooking, spray your baking dish with canola oil, and press one crust into the bottom and up the edges of the dish. If using, place pie weights on top of bottom crust. Bake for 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside, but leave oven on.

*In the same pan that you used for the chicken, add the other Tbsp of Olive Oil and heat on Medium High. Stir in the diced onions and cook for 2 minutes, or until slightly softened. Stir in the carrots, peas, and corn, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. 

*In a separate bowl combine the remaining ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Pour over the vegetable mixture in the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. 

*While the Vegetable mix is simmering, uncover the chicken and dice into 1/4 inch chunks. Add to the mixture and simmer for another 1 minute. 

*Pour the mixture into your previously baked pie crust and cover with the top crust. Using your fingers, pinch the top crust into the edges of the bottom crust to seal. Return to your preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes, until top crust is golden brown. 

*Remove from oven and let set for 5 minutes. Slice and serve hot.

I chose not to add any additional salt as the Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken Soups tend to run fairly salty, but feel free to use your own palate and season to your taste bud's delight! If freezing, skip the 35 minutes of baking time, wrap in plastic wrap and place in the freezer until you are ready to bake and eat.

Enjoy :]

<3 Marea

Linking up to Friday Potluck @ EkatsKitchen.com
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