Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Friday, November 30, 2012

Chocolate Pecan Pie

I know this is difficult to believe, but prior to preparing this recipe for Chocolate Pecan Pie, I had only eaten Pecan Pie one time in my life. Even more difficult to believe is that Brad had never tasted Pecan Pie at all. When I came across this recipe, I knew that I wanted to make it this year for Thanksgiving; even though I am not a big fan of corn syrup. To be honest, the one time I ate pecan pie, it had me at first bite. When I learned that I could add chocolate to the equation, it was a no brainer. I moved ahead with the following recipe.

4 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe Basic Pie Crust, rolled and fit into 9-inch pie plate (or organic pre-made pie crust)
1 cup pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. In heatproof bowl, set over (not in) saucepan of simmering water, melt chocolate, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 2 or 3 minute. Or, melt chocolate in microwave. Set aside.

In medium bowl, stir together (do not whisk) eggs, corn syrup, sugar, vanilla and salt. Stirring occasionally, gradually add melted chocolate. Pour filling into prepared crust and place pie plate on rimmed baking sheet. Arrange pecans in one even layer over filling.

Bake just until set; 50 to 6o minutes, rotating halfway through. Filling should jiggle slightly when pie plate is tapped. Let cool completely on wire rack, at least 4 hours before serving.

This pie was pretty amazing. From the rich gooey center to the chewy edges, the dessert was pure heaven. The chocolate cut through the sweetness of the corn syrup and sugar but I still recommend cutting the amount of sugar in half. I know Pecan Pie is meant to be sweet but I think the corn syrup provided enough sweetness to need very little help from sugar. This is the only change I would make to the pie. Other than only being able to eat a small piece to avoid wonky blood sugar, this pie eating experience was close to perfect. Brad concurred.

Although I am providing the recipe for Basic Pie Crust below, I decided to buy a pre-made Wholly Wholesome Organic Pie Shell from PCC Natural Market. This particular pie crust has no hydrogenated oils and is made with organic ingredients so I felt good about using it. I actually liked it almost as well as the crust I make from scratch. It didn't get quite as flakey during the baking process but it was still delicious.

Basic Pie Crust-
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 4 Tbsp ice water

In food processor, briefly pulse flour, salt and sugar. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. If necessary, add up to 2 tablespoons water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Don't over mix.

Turn dough out onto large piece of plastic wrap. Fold plastic over dough,; press to shape into 1-inch-thick disk. Refrigerate until firm; at least one hour (or up to 3 days).

On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll dough to 14-inch round with floured rolling pin. Wrap dough around rolling pin, discarding paper; unroll over 9-inch pie plate. Gently fit into bottom and up sides of plate. Do not stretch dough.

Using kitchen shears, trim dough to 1-inch overhang. Fold under itself to form rim and press to seal. Using thumb and forefinger, crimp rim of crust. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to one day.

Recipe Source:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dark and Stormy Cocktail

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

The Dark and Stormy was a perfect choice for our Thanksgiving cocktail because of the earthy color and deep, warm flavor. Our friends Tom and Heidi helped decide which cocktails we would serve. The Dark and Stormy was Tom's great idea and Heidi recommended that we serve hot spiced cider with rum. Both drinks were tasty but the Dark and Stormy was our official Thanksgiving cocktail.

Ingredients per serving:
1/4 lime, cut into two thick slices, one for garnish, one to squeeze over ice
2 oz Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda black rum
4 oz ginger beer

Fill highball glasses with ice. Squeeze lime slice over ice. Add Gosling's rum. Add ginger beer and place slice of lime on rim of glass for squeezing or garnish.

This cocktail was tasty with a capital T! Gosling's Black Seal Bermuda black rum has great depth of flavor without  being too strong. I purchased ginger beer by The Ginger People and the flavor was lovely. I have only tasted ginger beer a few times but this brand is my favorite thus far. (I recommend checking their website for other products. The ginger chews are one of my brother's favorite treats). The only change I would make to this recipe is to squeeze one additional slice of lime. The extra acidity added the perfect touch.

I read about a few alternatives to this cocktail that I thought I would share. The first is to add fresh-grated nutmeg as a finishing touch. The second is to swap black rum for white rum to make a Light and Breezy. As you can see in our photo above, the Dark and Stormy was perfect for our Thanksgiving weather so we stuck with the original. Enjoy!

Recipe Source:

Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Goat Cheese and Celery

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Even though we host Thanksgiving every year, the holiday has become a time to both relax and reflect on our many blessings. How does one relax while hosting a holiday? Wish I could take credit for being zen-like by nature but it is not the case. I am only able to enter a relaxed state by ordering Thanksgiving dinner from Metropolitan Market and then filling in the blanks with homemade pie and an appetizer. Metropolitan Market does such a fabulous job maintaining classic flavors (I am a stuffing junky and their stuffing is amazing!), that I have decided to let them do the hard work. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Last year I was fairly motivated so I prepared two pies from scratch and an appetizer. This year, I decided to make one appetizer, one pie and to have Brad prepare a Thanksgiving cocktail.

Although the recipes were new to me, the bulk of my preparation time was spent setting a beautiful table; which is always enjoyable. The setting was quite a departure in color and complexity from my usual Thanksgiving table (this year's table setting was much simpler) and it turned out even prettier than in previous years.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

The appetizer I chose to prepare was Sweet Potatoes with Pecans, Goat Cheese and Celery. The recipe was originally designed to be served as a side dish in place of classic Sweet Potato Casserole. When I looked at the recipe however, I immediately envisioned it as an appetizer instead of a side dish. Served as any part of a meal, this dish would not disappoint.

6 Tbsp olive oil
3 lb sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch coins
3/4 cup toasted and cooled pecan halves, chopped
1 large shallot, minced
4 stalks celery, chopped
10 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp dried cranberries or cherries, minced (optional but I used cranberries)
3 oz firmish goat cheese, crumbled
4 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat large baking sheet generously with olive oil (about 1 to 2 Tbsp). Lay sweet potatoes in one layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Photo Courtesy of Brad Lovejoy

Roast, without disturbing for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece; undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release from pan with no effort. If they don't, cook longer. Sprinkle with additional salt and pepper and return to pan for another 10 minutes or so, until underside matches top.

Meanwhile, prepare salad. In large bowl, combine pecans, shallots, celery, parsley, cranberries and goat cheese. In small dish, whisk together 4 Tbsp olive oil, vinegar and mustard. Pour half over salad and toss.

When potatoes are done, arrange then on serving platter. Scoop spoonful of salad over each round. Drizzle remaining dressing over top to taste. Serve immediately.

The recipe is savory, sweet, not too heavy and just plain tasty. I do however, highly recommend using the optional cranberries. The sweetness was perfect against the richness of the goat cheese and pecans and the chewy texture partnered beautifully with the crunchy celery. Just a reminder that pecans are easy to burn while toasting. The process works best when using a skillet on low heat and stirring the nuts frequently.

Just a side note that I used organic vegetables from PCC Natural Market and herbs from my garden for this recipe. I also want to give some love to my friend Heidi Matzen for preparing delicious green bean and sweet potato casseroles for our meal. The Matzens were our Thanksgiving guests last year as well as this year and they are lively and lovely guests. The lively comes from her husband Tom, 2 year-old son Vaughan, and 4-year old son Griffin and the lovely is courtesy of Heidi. :) We are truly thankful for such dear friends.

Recipes for pie and cocktail to follow........

Recipe Source:
In Style Magazine, November 2012