V Is For Vantastic: Flakey Mushroom-Gruyere Tarts

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October is National Vegetarian Awareness Month; what better way to start it than with a crisp, puff pastry, topped with mouthwatering caramelized mushrooms and onions and a combination of rich, melted cheeses!  While today’s post is short and sweet, likewise will be the finished product of these wonderful, healthful, fall ingredients.  Toss a little side salad together, and you have a meal to get you on the way in tasty style.  While some of you who attended my recent Italian Crostata class may still have dough left to experiment with (and I am happy to report many of you have experimented with both sweet and savory ingredients and sent me your wonderful results!), you may use that dough with these savory ingredients, or purchase store puff pastry for the same use; either way, yum is the immediate word that comes to mind!  While fall invokes the usual heavier types of soups, stews, roasted meats and desserts, give those a bit of a rest, and save them up for the holiday weeks and months that lie ahead.  Make this lighter version to celebrate those Vantastic Veggies – and don’t forget a crisp, cool, glass of wine!  Enjoy friends!

Ingredients:

1 sheet puff pastry (one-half of a 17.3 ounce package), thawed

4 tbls. extra light/virgin olive oil

10 ounces assorted mushrooms (button, cremini, shitake, oyster, regular white)

1 shallot, sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

Kosher salt/black pepper

1/4 cup dry white wine (only use what you would drink to cook with!)

4 ounces, Gruyere or sharp white Cheddar or a combination of both, grated (1 cup)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tsp. white wine vinegar

4 ounces mixed greens (6 cups)

2 radishes, thinly sliced

1 tbl. chopped fresh chives

Directions:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Unfold the pastry and cut it into 4 squares.  Place the squares on a parchment-lined baking sheet and, using a fork, prick the dough all over.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tbls. of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the mushrooms and shallot and season with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and tender; add in garlic, and cook a few minutes more, about 6 minutes total.  Add the wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute more.

 

Dividing evenly, sprinkle the pastry squares with half of the cheese, leaving a 1/2 inch border on each.  Top with the mushroom mixture and remaining cheese.  Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 20 – 25 minutes.

 

In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, garlic, vinegar and remaining 2 tbls. of oil; add 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper.  Add the greens and radishes and toss to coat.  Serve the tarts with the salad and sprinkle with the chives.  *You can also sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese – fabulous!

TGIF: Cinnamon Roasted Pink Apples & Toasted Pecans – Thank God It’s Fall! (Fooled Ya!)

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You thought I was going to say, Thank God It’s Friday, right?  Well, thank god for that too!  And fall in Eagle Rock?  Just a little bit different than in Northern California!  I am so thankful to god to be rid of the super humid, record hot days here (I must have sweated off at least 5 pounds), and am enjoying nighttime walks once again, taking in the cooler air both night and morning!  Still, the consistently sunny days and fairly warm temperatures, minus the chill of fall air, do not invite fall thoughts and memories for me, nor does the appearance of pumpkins for sale in parking lots and grocery stores as opposed to corn fields!  As this is my first fall here in Los Angeles, I am sure that once I make the adjustment, all will be well (thinking ahead to cooler yet sunny days in December, and being able to enjoy the season’s lights without storms); and it will be equally easy to say Bye Bye Summer, and Hello Fall, while ringing in the holidays with the best of the season’s produce.  While I love baked apples when they are plump and ripe in fall, something magical happens when you roast them in the oven; all of their natural juices appear and become locked in the surface of the fruit.  Celebrate the passing of the fall equinox, and ring in fall right by making these tasty, super cinnamoney (a word?) apples.  And what goes best alongside?  Why a hefty scoop of Trader Joe’s French Vanilla ice cream, of course!!!!  It’s like apple pie, sans the crust!  (Well, maybe the pecans lend that “crusty” texture and flavor after all!)Thanks to all for the heartfelt support after yesterday’s post; feeling a little better today.  Have a great weekend; I will be perfecting pecan and pumpkin pie, samples of which will be available at next weekend’s Music Festival in Eagle Rock in our booth!   Happy Baking – back to posting next week!

Ingredients:

1 cup of pecans

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 tbls. fresh lemon juice

4 Gala or Fuji apples

3 cinnamon sticks, plus one for garnish if desired

Vanilla Ice Cream

Whipped Cream – optional, but highly recommended on top of that ice cream!

Lemon Zest, garnish

Apple Pie Spice, garnish

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Spread pecans in a 13 x 9 inch baking dish; toast about 4 minutes, until lightly fragrant; set aside, or store in a Tupperware for another use.

Combine sugar, lemon juice and 1/4 cup of water.  One at a time, to prevent them from turning brown, halve apples through the stem end, core, using a melon baller (the easiest way to core apples and peaches!), and immediately toss with the sugar mixture.  Arrange apples, cut side down, in baking dish; pour rest of sugar mixture over them.  Tuck in cinnamon sticks; cover the dish with foil, and bake, until apples are easily pierced with the tip of a knife, roughly 22 minutes.  Serve apples warm with ice cream (and a dollop of whipped cream), and drizzle on pan juices and toasted pecans.  Add a little lemon zest for color, and garnish with a dash of apple pie spice and cinnamon sticks.  Yum!

Take A Breath Thursday: Totally Comforting Spiced Apple Cake With Caramel Sauce – A Remedy For The Blues

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Sometimes in life as in baking and cooking, you just can’t fix something that is broken.  Sometimes, you must start again, start over – from scratch, and create something better.  While today’s post contains a soothing, easy fall apple cake recipe, it will also serve as a way to walk myself through feeling the blues.  Many of my readers know, that I have undergone substantial life changes in the last year:  I ended a long-term, deeply troubled marriage, and am still reaping all of the difficulty that entails for anyone; and shortly thereafter, by coincidence, chance, magic, the pull of the universe, or simply that which was always meant to be, I was reunited with my high school love – the one person in this world that always believed in me, loved me for who I was and am, and never stopped loving me (and I him) despite the different paths our lives went down; true soul mates.  I relocated from Northern California to Southern California to in essence, begin my life again – new home, two new jobs and multiple changes therein, and a new blended family (and crazy L.A. traffic!).  But along with those prior different life paths, marriages for both with another became a reality, and children were born of those unions.  And with my relocation to Southern California, came a difficult and conscious choice I had to make – to move away from my children, now 18 and 22 (and 36), all of whom are semi-adults and adults, self-sufficient and away from their family home and on their own life paths in college and such, but who will always “need” their Mother.  Visits are difficult due to everyone’s schedule, and there is still a great deal of emotional upheaval, lack of understanding, acceptance and empathy, and healing for all that is taking place and will take place for some time to come.  The roles of all become different, unfamiliar, clouded, and feelings are ruptured at every turn it seems.  Distance will eventually take a toll, of that I was always sure; and yet, at 53, to begin my “back half of life” in love, peace and harmony, this was the only choice for me.  Add to that, the fact that their other parent exercises negative control, innuendo, unfair influence and disparaging and untrue commentary of me to all day in and day out, and what you have are many undeserving hurts and tears and a situation that remains difficult at best, for me.  And so, the blues wrapped themselves around me in mind and spirit today, as I learned yesterday I most likely will not be spending any holidays with them because of the negative parental forces constantly working against me – something over which I can exercise little to no control.  It is my hope that just as with many childhood movies (think Cinderella), that goodness will prevail over evil and that my children will one day come to grips with the truth and find their way back to me in a loving, accepting, positive way.  While it is true that you cannot walk down two roads of life at one time, that each of us must choose only one path to follow, doing that requires taking responsibility for our choices, standing strong, staying focused, living by choice not by chance, making changes not excuses, being motivated not manipulated, working to excel in your passions and your craft and not competing, but most of all – choosing to listen to your inner voice, to your own heart, and finding the courage to move forward, ignoring the jumbled negative opinions of perhaps nearly everyone around you (with the exception for me, the man I live with now – my shining light).  I have lived with a coat of armour for many years in my past life, shielding my children from another parent who was damaging us all emotionally, much of which they were too young to acknowledge and fully understand, and much of which as semi-adults, they choose to ignore.  At the time, I thought staying put was the best that I could do, to stay present in that union, for their benefit and physical and emotional protection.  While we all have imperfections, if basic emotional and physical needs are not being met, you become vulnerable to being manipulated by someone willing to exploit that gap.  And that coat of armour thickens year by year, simultaneously extinguishing the spirit of the person that lies underneath.  You begin spending all of your energy tolerating things that shouldn’t be tolerated; you settle for mediocrity and in some situations like mine, downright abuse.  What I can say is, if you don’t value yourself, nobody else will; you’re sabotaging yourself and you take all prisoners down with you.  With respect to my kids, I am for the first time in years following my heart, my true and gentle love, and my creative passions, which have been forcibly hidden underneath my armour for 20 plus years; it is, a difficult thing for them to understand, to grasp, and to view me, their Mother, in another light that is foreign to them now, but truly, who I always was before them.  I may have underestimated the time it will take for them to find their way; if they will find that way at all.  It will take some time for them to grow up – and growing up for all of us means growing apart from old habits, relationships, bad situations, and finding a new reality of life in the present, and something new in our own lives that truly moves us; for me, it is baking, cooking, teaching and sharing with others; and that is, what living life is all about folks.  Walking away really has nothing to do with weakness – it has everything to do with personal strength.  Remember, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost – perhaps now is a good time to re-read this famous book.  I was once just a simple girl, from a small town, in a simple green shirt, smiling and happy.  That picture, with that very image from my youth, is one that my true love has in his possession; it has become the symbol of making a happy life together for he and I, here in sunny Southern California, as for the most part slow but sure, that girl in the green shirt is happy and smiling once again.  I hope that when I blog about personal experiences, that it will “make you think” about things in your own life; that my life stories, will perhaps induce thought-provoking in your own life.  Just as when you leave my baking classes, you will have learned how to make something, reflect on that class experience and memories, and apply those skills in your own kitchen.  For all of us, no matter what age, what job, what relationship, what life path – you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you must keep “re-reading” your previous one. Today, a famous quote from Maya Angelou comes to mind:  “You may encounter many defeats, many disappointments, many heartaches and lose your way; but you must not be defeated.  It may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, and how you can still come out of it.”  To say that there are not parallels in baking and life would be wrong.  Indeed, they boast many similarities and “life lessons.”  Take this life recipe, and this apple recipe, to heart.  Make this cake and have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack or all of the above, if that is what your heart tells you.  Although I don’t generally use many boxed products, cake mix in various formats is the one exception, and can cut the work, create buttery tenderness in recipes such as this one, and let’s face it – is just plain good!  Thanks for listening folks!

5-7 apples (mix of Granny Smith and red apples is awesome) (think sweet/sour!)

1 yellow boxed cake mix

2 tbls. granulated sugar, 1 tbl. brown sugar

1 tbl. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. apple pie spice

Dash of Salt

Dash of Nutmeg

1 stick salted butter, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Fill a baking pan or baking dish (9 x 13) with sliced apples, with or without skins is up to you! Just make sure they are sliced fairly thin.  Sprinkle the apples with the dry cake mix.  Combine the sugars, salt and spices; sprinkle over the dry cake mix.  Melt butter, and drizzle all over.  Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm on its own, with a dollop of whipped cream, with the Caramel Sauce recipe below, or with ice cream and caramel sauce!

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Caramel Sauce – Easy Peasy!

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 stick salted butter

1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream (heavy cream will make it thicker)

1 tbl. vanilla

Pinch of Salt

Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium low to medium heat.  Cook while whisking gently for 5 to 7 minutes, until thicker.  Turn off heat.  Serve warm or refrigerate until cold.  If sauce is thin, just continue cooking for a few more minutes.

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Make A Wish Wednesday: Magical Pumpkin Creme Pie, Fit For A Princess

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Good morning all!  I sent this picture to my Face Book page last night . . .

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and asked anyone to tell me who/what it was; and the answer is . . .

 

 

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Cinderella!  As there exists a life sized movie screen in the home I share, movie watching happens every night,  complete with popcorn and theater candy.   I had made a request for what I thought was the original Cinderella movie, remembered so fondly from my childhood as completely and wonderfully, “magical.”  In doing a little research today, I have found that the original non-animated movie was made in 1957, starring none other than the infamous, Julie Andrews (this is now on my new to-watch list!).  Rodgers and Hammerstein’s enchanting story and music lyrics, have stayed with me well into adulthood; I felt like a young girl all over again last night watching it, right beside my own prince charming (for real), and share these pictures (and then a recipe) with you all.  “Cinderella” – means someone or something that has good qualities but is treated badly or ignored; relating to someone who suddenly becomes rich, famous, or successful.  I urge you to rent the movie and watch it again, on the biggest screen you can find; I must admit, I found myself singing songs included in the movie, such as “My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible,” “Ten Minutes Ago” and “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful,” not only last night during and after the film, but in the shower, on the way to work this morning, and would imagine they will again stay with me for some time to come!  (Yes, music theatre was where I indeed, met my prince charming, about 40 years ago.)  So…. on this Make A Wish Wednesday, take in the movie and this recipe for Creamy, Dreamy, Pumpkin meets Decadence, Pumpkin Crème Pie.  More mild and much easier than traditional pumpkin pie (no traditional crust!), it serves as a cold and frosty ending to a heavy Thanksgiving (or any large) meal; keep it in mind for the holidays.  Until then, enjoy some picture clips from the film, and then the recipe!

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Lesley Ann Warren was a mere 18 years of age when she was hand picked for this role especially by Rodgers and Hammerstein.  As I watched the film again last night, I agree, she was absolutely perfect for the role.  I did pose the question while watching, “I wonder where my fairy godmother has been hiding?”  (Lol !)

Lesley Ann Warren Wearing Fur Slipper

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Lest we not forget, that without the ever so handsome and vocally talented Stuart Damon, there would have been no prince charming . . . and without the rest of the truly talented cast of the evil stepmother and ugly step sisters, the ultimate triumph of good and purity over meanness and cruelness, would not have lent itself to the story line . . . they were all cast so well, and I laughed hysterically at the foibles of the step sisters!  The pumpkin carriage reminded me of this pie recipe; both it and the movie have a certain ” je ne sais quoi”; who knows, maybe your fairy godmother will appear and help you make this wonderful pie!  Be careful what you wish for, I can attest to the fact . . . that some wishes and dreams do come true!

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Now, on to the recipe!

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 1/2 packages graham crackers (about 15 cookie sheets)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 stick butter, melted

Filling:

1 box (3 oz.) Vanilla Pudding (Cook & Serve)

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

Pinch of Cinnamon

Pinch of Pumpkin Pie Spice

Pinch of Nutmeg

Pinch of Cloves

2 tbls. brandy (optional)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup plus 3 tbls. pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 cup additional heavy whipping cream

2 tbls. brown sugar

Crushed pecans or graham crumbs for garnish

Mint, garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grind graham crackers in a food processor or place in a large Ziploc and pound them with your rolling pin until finely ground.  Add powdered sugar and melted butter and process until totally combined.  Press into the bottom and up the sides of a pie pan until nice and firm.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until warm and “set.”  Remove from oven, and allow crust to cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, mix dry pudding with half and half and cream.  Add spices.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thick.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and brandy, if using.  Add pumpkin and stir to combine.  Place lid on pot and set aside to cool.  When cool enough, place pot in fridge to cool completely.

When mixture is cool, remove from fridge.  In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and the brown sugar.  Beat until very light and fluffy and peaks form.  Fold in pumpkin cream mixture until combined.  Pour into cooled crust.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.  Serve with garnishes on top, and a mint leaf for color.   This pie will have you singing and dancing to the music of Cinderella in no time – trust me.

Pump Up That Coffee Flavor: PSL – Pumpkin Spiced Latte

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The surest sign that fall has arrived is what?  The sudden nationwide jump for joy over the return of the highest ranked fall favorite drink – the pumpkin spiced latte.  This espresso based drink was originally created by Starbucks, but is now available at almost every major coffee chain and local restaurant (including my favorite French breakfast place down the hill in Eagle Rock!), plus in pods for at-home coffee makers, should you choose to buy them or have one of those single brew machines.  Here’s how it all came down . . . .  In 2003, the pumpkin spiced latte is born, in a lab; Starbucks developed it by tasting espresso with pumpkin pies.  In 2004, they debuted the drink in their chain stores in September.  By 2010, searches are quadrupled nationwide (as recorded by the net) by people trying to find the drink out of season.  Back up to 2007 – Dunkin Donuts gets into the game, launching its own version, along with many fellow restaurant/coffee chains.   In 2009, the first official PSL tweets pop up on twitter (think Katy Perry and Taylor Swift).  And by 2012, Starbucks stores run out of the special sauce they incorporate into their PSL’s sending out baristas in disguise on the hunt for stashes at other stores!  Enter 2013 – McDonald’s debuts their own version with smashing success, and by 2014 – Dunkin Donuts again returns, launching a combination version called a Pumpkin Crème Brule Latte; decadent!  I invite you to try this copycat version created by the Food Network Kitchens; I think you will find, that you can make this tasty fall drink in the comfort of your own home, and pump up your morning coffee routine (and save a pretty penny by doing so).  In all honesty?  It’s pretty ?!@# close!  Welcome in fall, even in So Cal, the right way.  Enjoy foodie friends! *Adjust the amount of milk/cream/sugar to your liking, and drink away!

Directions:

Combine 3-4 tbls. sugar, 2 1/2 tbls. pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin, not canned pumpkin pie filling!), 1 tbl. pure vanilla, a heaping 1/4 tsp. each of cinnamon and ginger, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg in a small saucepan.  Whisk in 2 cups of whole milk, 1/4 cup heavy cream, and 1/4 cup espresso (or strong brewed coffee to your liking – even mocha java!) and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.  Pour into 2 mugs and top with whipped cream, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of pumpkin pie spice.  Yummmm-o!  And remember . . .

 

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Take A Gamble: Summer Zucchini Casino

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Yesterday, I had my first “flagship” class launch here in Los Angeles, with the ever so loved Italian Style Crostata.  In keeping with the still on my mind Italian theme, and somehow craving vegetables after all of those sweet nibbles and tastes during class, I decided to post this yummy zucchini recipe.  In this creative spin on clams casino, zucchini coins stand in for the bivalves.  Most of us have bountiful mounds of garden zucchini this time of year, so take a gamble and make this yummy vegetable side.  Think healthy meets savory meets . . . BACON!  You can’t go wrong, with cheese and BACON!  I will keep my words at a minimum today, while recovering from two days of prepping and class, and a wonderful class it was!  I will be posting pictures soon in this and the victory shots section, so stay tuned!  Meanwhile, enjoy these easy, simple yet festive bite-sized zucchini coins, they will be a win-win for you, for sure.

1/3 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs, or panko breadcrumbs

1/3 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 tbl. minced shallot

1 garlic clove, crushed

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

Dash of Red Pepper Flakes

1 small zucchini

2 slices bacon

Position a rack 6 inches from the  broiler element and heat the broiler to high.  In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, cheese, shallot, garlic, 1/4 tsp. of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and 1 tbl. water.

 

Slice the zucchini crosswise into 15 1/4-inch thick rounds and arrange in a single layer on a small rimmed baking sheet.  Using your fingers, mound the breadcrumb mixture on the zucchini rounds, firmly pinching the mixture so it holds together.

 

Cut the bacon crosswise into 15 1-inch pieces and place on top of the breadcrumbs.  Broil until the bacon and some of the exposed breadcrumbs are browned and crisp, about 3 minutes; serve hot.  Yum!

 

 

 

Heavenly Habits: Grilled Halibut Packets In Garlic, Lemon Champagne Broth

 

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In the last couple of years, Halibut made its California debut and seemed to be plentiful in most regions.  You could find it everywhere, however now, it seems that the “new” fish taking “old” halibut’s place, is Tilapia, farm raised or otherwise.  Every so often, the fresh fish counter at your local grocer, as well as places such as The Fish King here in So-Cal, will have an abundance of Halibut – yours for the grilling; if you find it in short supply, it will be more pricey than lobster and filet mignon put together.  So catch those sales when you can, and freeze them sealed tightly!   If you are looking for a lazy Sunday Supper, San Francisco style, grill up this tasty halibut and serve it over mashed potatoes or rice, with a toasted baguette on the side to soak up those tasty juices, and you will not only keep your kitchen cool (really important this week in So-Cal and Nor-Cal!), but keep your cleanup minimal, your calories low, and you looking super cool as a hostess or host.  Be sure to use extra heavy duty foil to hold in all those yummy ingredients and stand up to the heat of your grill, albeit only for a short time cooking.  These packets can be made ahead of time, and then grilled off during entertaining, or while you are “cooling out” on that lazy, Sunday afternoon, glass of Champagne in hand; which brings me to the use of Champagne in this recipe.  While you can also substitute white wine (never use in cooking what you wouldn’t drink!), Champagne and it’s chemical makeup, lend a different texture and taste to the broth when all of the vegetables, garlic, lemon, vinegar, and natural fish juices marry; it’s wonderful, plain and simple.   The fish stays moist from that “Champagne Lemon” steam, the vegetables don’t cook too long and stay slightly crispy, and the juices . . . well, amazing; an unexpected treasure.  A friend said to me recently, “Expect the unexpected with life and food – and realize that not everything is meant to be modified or perfectly understood.  Make now, the primary focus of your life; the past is just a memory.  The future, is a mental projection.  You can choose to dwell back in the past only for learning and joyous reflection.  You can choose to dwell in the future only for visualization and practical planning.  However, any time your awareness floats away to the past or future for negative purposes, you are suffocating your ability to thrive in the only moment you ever have – the here, and NOW.”   Food for thought, for sure, pun intended.  Now is the time to make Halibut.  Now is the time to try new recipes, new life experiences.  You wouldn’t expect to grill with Champagne.  Trust me, sometimes the greatest thing to come out of all your hard work, in the kitchen and in life, isn’t what you get, but what you become through that experience.  Live a little; grill up this Halibut, and have a glass of Champagne – for me.

Ingredients:

Heavy Duty Foil

4 Halibut fillets, washed and dried

1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced into thin rings

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

1 yellow onion, sliced into thin rings

4 cloves, crushed garlic plus 2 cloves crushed garlic

2 green onions, thinly sliced

Dash of Kosher salt

Dash of Pepper

Dash of Pink or Garlic Salt or Both

Dash of Lemon Pepper

Dash of Hot Hungarian Paprika

1/4 cup good quality Champagne

Dash of White Wine Vinegar

4 lemon slices, seeds removed

Juice of one lemon

Pat of butter for each packet

Chives, garnish

Lemon zest, garnish

*Note:  You can play nice with spice to your liking; give this base recipe a try, and then the sky is the limit!

 

Preheat your grill to medium heat.  Make foil packets, using double sheets of heavy duty foil, two sheets on top of each other, molded to form a large square so that when you fold, you have enough to cover the fish and to form a packet, with sides up that will hold in all of the juices.  Place equal amounts of bell pepper, tomato, onion slices, and green onions, in each packet.  Sprinkle with the 4 cloves of crushed garlic, divided equally between the packets.  Sprinkle with the spices; splash vinegar over the vegetables, followed by salt and pepper.

Take cleaned halibut fillets, and rub, dividing garlic equally, with remaining 2 cloves of crushed garlic.  Lightly salt and pepper both sides.  Lay fillets over vegetables in each packet, placing one lemon slice on top of each.  Pour in lemon juice, divided equally among the packets.  Dab each top with a pat of butter.  Then, gently pour Champagne around the halibut, bring two sides of foil to the middle, fold over, and repeat with remaining sides, sealing the packet.  Place packet directly on grill over medium heat with tongs, and grill, lid covered, 15-20 minutes depending on thickness of halibut fillet; check at 15, fish should flake easily.  Bring packets to the table in a large bowl.  Let guests scoop some mashed potatoes or rice into their serving bowl (preferably a nice large white pasta bowl as opposed to a plate), and unfold the halibut packets onto their mashed potatoes or rice, releasing all of the juices and vegetables.  Garnish with chives and lemon zest; serve with additional lemon wedges if desired.  And don’t forget the hot, crusty baguette and glass of bubbly!  Enjoy!

 

Take The Classes! Italian Berry Crostata & Fig Tart – and “Gotta Empanada” !

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*Class moved to September 21, 2014 due to the flu!  Because of the poor quality of Peaches, Summer Berries and Plums will be substituted, as well as Figs!

New Class:  Sunday, October 19, 2014 “Gotta Empanada” – $65.00 per Class, includes food & wine

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Learn how to hand-craft savory Latin Style Empanadas in this hands-on pastry class!  Register via the event page on Face Book, or contact me via thepiebelle@gmail.com.  See you “In the Kitchen” soon!  *Due to the popularity of this class, size limited to 16; register soon!

Lemon-Garlic Lobster Love: Seefood & Blogging, Differently!

Lobster

Hi Foodie Friends! Thank you for the kind notes of wonderment and well wishing, and to answer a few questions:  No, I did not fall off the face of the earth!  No, I have not given up on baking and Blogging:  Yes, I do miss my Northern California teaching days and students; and Yes, I have been busy doing the following:  Wrapping up things in Northern California, including getting my youngest child off to college; continually adjusting to my new life change in Southern California; getting pastry classes up and running here; tending to my day job and its multiple changes in the short time I have been here (there have been 5!); and most recently, recovering from a bout with a very ugly monster . . . the dreaded flu!  It was brought to my attention in past months, that perhaps food Blogging should remain as exactly that . . . a Blog about food, not personal infusions of life events, thoughts, and feelings, either past or present.  After much consideration and about a month off from Blogging by choice, I have decided, that considering the sources of that suggestion, I am inclined to return to what best suits me and what caused me to initiate a Blog related to baking and food in the first place – that what we feel, live, and inhale – always has to do with food.   So I say to the “nay-sayers” of Blogs like mine that incorporate both with passion for both life and food and who write and bake for others with heart and soul, turn away if you must, as I will be returning to my previous style of Blogging.  Whew!  Having said all of that, I am over-due on a few promised  posts:  Lobster Love (today’s post), and Halibut in Lemon Champagne Broth (tomorrow’s post).  While lying in wait this past weekend, hoping for the quick passage of the flu and all of its lovely parts, I had the opportunity to again watch Julia & Julie, a favorite movie of mine, involving food and story.  I particularly love the scene involving the Lobster sequence, and in fact found myself writing this Lobster post and humming the tune as in the movie, “Lobsta Killer” !  While this recipe does require that you bake lobster tails, luckily, you can purchase the lobster tails from your  local grocer, with the hard part already done for you (i.e., boiling the live lobster).  Whether from your grocer or fish monger, just pluck that meat from the lobster tails, clean it up and rinse it a bit cutting off any fleshy substances, and then give the meat a good drying off with a paper towel – and boom, you are ready to bake.  This recipe works well for shrimp, or a combination of shrimp and lobster tails (baked at the same time), and I guarantee, you will make it time and again when you think you can handle a major infusion of butter.  It’s good to be back Blogging friends, and I will see some of you soon – “In the Kitchen,” in class!

Ingredients:

2 6-8 oz. lobster tails, meat pulled from shell, cleaned and dried

2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened

1 tsp. kosher salt

7-8 cloves of garlic, half pressed, half rough chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, slightly crushed

Juice of one whole large lemon

Sprinkle of Lemon Pepper

Couple turns of the Pepper Grinder

Chives for Garnish

French Baguette, sliced thin, for sopping up the amazing juices!

That’s It!

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place the lobster meat (and shrimp if you are making them also) on a baking sheet; hopefully you have a baking sheet that has a good lip on it, to keep all of the butter and juices in while baking, as opposed to running out all over your oven.  With your hands, take the barely softened butter and mix in all of the other ingredients, incorporating as best you can – yes, your hands will be gunky!  *Note, if butter is too soft, it won’t mix well; just barely soften your butter!  Spread all of the lobster (and shrimp) with all of the butter-lemon-garlic mixture.  Bake in your preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes; check for opaqueness; if you feel the lobster are a little bit wobbly still, then for another two minutes, but no more than that; once you remove them from the oven, they will continue baking on the sheet bathed in those juices!  Remove from the oven when you have baked for 10-12 minutes, let rest for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, and then distribute to a plate and chop into chunks or serve whole, pouring juices all over lobster (if serving whole, you can even place back into lobster shell if it remained in tact).  Garnish with chives.  Then, take that bread and sop away any leftover juices, no butter needed!

*This recipe works well entertaining, when chopped up into chunks and served in the juices with toothpicks aside shrimp and skewers of steak; all I can say, is yummmm!

Peaches & Plums & Figs, Oh My! Summer Stone Fruit & Fig Italian-Style Crostata Class

peach-frangipane-galette

Looking for a way to showcase the freshest summer produce of the season? Come to the Italian-Style Crostata class hosted by The Pie Belle, for a wonderful Taste of Summer! Students will incorporate the finest of the seasons’s stone fruits and figs into luscious, free-form style Crostata pies! Each student will learn the secrets to crafting tender butter pastry and take home a luscious mini Stone Fruit Crostata assembled during class, and sample a Buttermilk Fig Crostata. *Hands-on class.

Date: Sunday: September 14, 2014

Time: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Chez Deco, Eagle Rock, CA (Los Angeles)
(register via thepiebelle@gmail.com)

Cost: $95.00 Per Person (includes Appetizers & Wine)

You will fall in love with this pastry; don’t miss it! Watch for listing in the Eagle Rock Boulevard Sentinel News!

Fig Crostata