Diane Kochilas has written many award-winning cookbooks including Mediterranean Grilling in 2007. It’s a great book because it gives you new perspective on old friends.
For example, the sweet potato. I know, it is almost fall, and we are already thinking ahead to holiday meal. We gather with friends and family and there is always loads of advanced discussion about what we are going to do.
Or not to.
Or have to do.
Somehow, sweet potatoes have become a “must” dish for the holidays. For some folks, sweet potatoes are about as obligatory as alimony. We do them because we have to. I don’t eat them under court order, exactly, but here is a recipe where you will volunteer to gobble them down.
Grilling the sweet potatoes will enhance their “sweetness.” Personally, I have never thought of them as sweet. But this accompanying dressing is quite happily both sweet and spicy, sure to transform your impression of sweet potatoes far, far to the sweet side.
Suzi looked at this picture form the book and said, “Those don’t look like sweet potatoes to me.” It’s all leek on top, that’s true, but the sweet potatoes have to be there underneath. Of course, if you have a preference for turnips or parsnips, you could venture down your own garden path.
Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Leeks with Mint, Orange and Olive Vinaigrette
Yield: serves 4
For the veggies:
1 pound long sweet potatoes, scrubbed
3 large leeks, roots, tough upper greens, and outer layers removed
Vegetable oil for brush the grill rack
For the dressing:
¼ cup strained fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
1 scant teaspoon pink peppercorns, ground with your fingertips
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
10 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced crosswise
Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the potatoes until they can be pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes.
While the potatoes are cooking, slit the leeks lengthwise without cutting all the way through and wash thoroughly under cold water, removing any sand from their interior layers. Pat dry.
Heat the grill to medium-hot and oil the grill rack.
Remove the sweet potatoes and place in a cold water bath or rinse under cold water in a colander. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut in ¼‑inch rounds. Cut the leeks on the bias into 1‑inch thick ovals. Gently toss the leeks and sweet potatoes in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper, being careful not to separate the leek layers. Place the leeks and then the sweet potatoes on the hottest par of the grill and grill them, turning once until the leeks are lightly charred and caramelized and the potatoes are tender and lined with grill marks. The leeks with take 10 to 12 minutes total. The sweet potatoes 6 to 8 minutes. Remove and place in a serving bowl or on a small platter.
Make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange and lemon juices. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking vigorously to emulsify. Add the sugar, salt, pink peppercorns, and mustard. Stir in the mint and olive and pour over the sweet potatoes and leeks. Toss gently and serve.
Source: Mediterranean Grilling by Diane Kochilas [William Morrow, 2007]
In Make Mine a Martini, author Kay Plunkett-Hogge presents this an array of cocktails for you to consider, not just a wonderful martini. There are classics here and some new ones, like The Fine & Dandy, a combo of lemon juice, Cointreau and gin.
But this book is really more: a cocktail party book with recipe for food ideas to make your cocktail party vibrantly happy and successful.
This tart, with crab and cheese, is exactly the centerpiece app that you want. Beautiful, rich, and complex in flavor, it can happily stand alongside the cocktails in Make Mine a Martini as well as wine.
As with any tart, this is a dish that takes some time and love to fashion. But, it’s beauty to the eye and to the palette is worth the investment. Kay says this dish is sophisticated, cream, and fragrant with saffron. Serve at room temperature, definitely not cold, so it has a little wobble and aromatic power.
You can read my review of Make Mine a Martini right here.
Crab, Saffron and Gruyere Tart
Yield: serves 12
For the filling:
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
200 ml (7 fluid ounces) double (heavy) cream
A pinch of grated nutmeg a
A large pinch of saffron threads
170 gram can crab meat, drained
100 grams [3 ½ ounces] Gruyere cheese, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry:
225 grams (7 ½ ounces) plain flour
110 grams (3 ¾ ounces) cold unsalted butter
A small glass of iced water
Preheat the oven to 375°F and grease a 20 cm (8 inch) round or 36 x 12 2 cm (14 x 4 ½ inch) rectangular loose-bottomed flan tin.
To make the pastry, sift the flour into a mixing bowl, then chop the fridge-cold butter into small pieces and drop them into the bowl. Coat them in flour, then rub the butter and flour between your fingertips, lifting it, rubbing it together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add a good pinch of salt and stir it in. Then add the iced water, a teaspoonful at a time, until the pastry just comes together. If you add too much water, you'll get a hard pastry.
Push the pastry straight into the greased flan tin, easing it around gently with your knuckles until it is evenly covering the base and sides. Line the pastry case with baking parchment and weight it down with baking beans. Bake blind for about 1 0 minutes, then remove the beans and paper and return the tart case to the oven for a further 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
To make the filling, mix the eggs and the yolk, the cream, nutmeg and saffron in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Beat the mixture with a hand-held electric whisk to combine thoroughly, then leave to stand for 20 minutes. Beat again, then carefully stir in the crab and grated cheese.
Pour the filing into the flan tin and bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is domed, burnished and puffy. Allow to cool to room temperature, or just above, before serving.
Source: Make Mine a Martini by Kay Plunkett-Hogge [I5 Press, 2015]
We may all have enjoyed a salad with pears and blue cheese and some nuts. It’s a great upscale dish for, say, brunch. But what about dessert? Tammy Donroe Inman suggests just that idea in Wintersweet — you can see my review here. Wintersweet is a magnificent dessert book and a go-to reference for upscale desserts.
In this version, pear halves are glazed in honey syrup, filled with bubbling blue cheese, and sprinkled with toasted walnuts.
Get a really fine blue here, something with a little punch. And, if walnuts are not your fav, then pecans are, according to my wife, much, much better.
Quick, elegant, and memorable. This is a dessert for fall to spring.
Chocolate Pomegranate Pavlova
Yield: one 9-inch cake
For the pavlova:
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar (or a scant cup of superfine or caster sugar)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
For the topping:
¼ cup Pomegranate Jelly (page 119)
½ pomegranate, seeded (½ cup of seeds)
2 cups heavy
⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F (l75°C). Trace a 7-inch (l8-cm) circle on a sheet of parchment paper in heavy-handed pencil using a bowl or cake pan as a guide. Flip the parchment paper over and set it on a cookie sheet (the circle should be visible through the paper).
For the pavlova, process the granulated sugar for 60 seconds in a food processor or blender until finely ground (superfine and caster sugar require no grinding).
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium- high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they form stiff peaks that don’t droop when the beaters are lifted.
With the mixer still running, add the finely ground sugar one tablespoon at a time, beating well, until the meringue is stiff and shiny. Once all of the sugar is added, beat the meringue for 4 to 6 minutes more on medium-high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl, or until the mixture is no longer gritty when rubbed between your fingers. The mixture should cling tightly to the bowl and feel very dense. Sift the cocoa on top. Add the cornstarch, vinegar, and cardamom, if using. Fold everything together with a rubber spatula, rotating the bowl and using light, circular strokes that lift the whites from the bottom and deposit them gently on top of the dry ingredients, until no streaks remain.
Working quickly, dab dots of the soft meringue under each corner of the parchment paper to glue it down so it doesn’t slide around annoyingly while you’re trying to work. Mound the meringue within the marked circle in a big pile. Smooth it into a circular pillow about 2 to 3 inches high with a slight depression in the middle. Don’t bother trying to make it look too perfect—it should be free-form. The batter will spread a bit during baking.
Place the pavlova in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 300°F (l50°C). Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the meringue is set and crisp on the outside, but the center still feels soft underneath. Do not open the oven door until the very end. I know the suspense is killing you, but the more you check, the more it’s going to want to sink and the more you’re going to want to check it again. Where does it end? When it’s finally done, turn off the heat and let the pavlova sit in the oven, with the door propped open with a wooden spoon, to cool down slowly. Remove the pan from the oven when it is completely cool. (The pavlova can be made up to a day ahead of time. Cover it gently with plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.)
At this point, the pavlova should not look particularly pretty. It will likely be cracked and fissured like a volcanic crater, with the center threatening to collapse. All normal. When ready to serve, loosen the pavlova from the parchment paper with a spatula, and gently transfer it to a serving plate or cake pedestal.
For the topping, warm the pomegranate jelly in a microwave or in a small pot on the stove just until loose. Whisk in up to a teaspoon of warm water to loosen the jelly to a syrupy consistency. Drizzle the pomegranate syrup over the middle of the pavlova. Sprinkle half of the pomegranate seeds over the syrup.
In a medium bowl with a whisk or an electric mixer, whip the cream with the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form and the cream mounds nicely in a pile, 1 to 2 minutes. Mound the cream on top of the pomegranate topping, and sprinkle with the remaining pomegranate seeds. Serve right away.
Source: Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman [Running Press, 2013]