If you’ve ever been around an orchard when orange blossoms are on the trees, you’ll have a sense of the flavor that manifests in this orange blossom panna cotta. Yes, it’s certainly orange, but with a floral taste that’s almost as delicate as the blossoms themselves. The key ingredient in this otherwise very simple Italian dessert is orange blossom water. It’s a staple of cooking around the Mediterranean, made from the concentrated oil of actual orange blossoms, only a little diluted in water. If you don’t live near a decent international grocery, you can order it online.
Panna cotta, of course, is a classic Italian dessert. It’s name translates to cooked cream. Way, way back, fish bones were boiled to get the gelatin, and there are rustic versions of the dessert that use egg whites and honey to provide the body. This version is simplified, so as not to distract from the delicate orange blossom flavor, and uses only cream, a little sugar and unflavored gelatin. It has the virtues of being simple and delicious, and it can be made a few days ahead. If you’re looking to make a real impression with a dessert, you can make some of the cool free-form spun sugar decorations like the one pictured and add a little orange zest.by
One of the things I really enjoy is making the kind of one-bite finger foods that are great snacks for watching a playoff game or a big race, the kind of things that go well with an ice-cold beer. So when I spotted some cool bite-size sweet peppers at the grocery, my first thought was “How can I jazz these up?” These chorizo stuffed mini peppers were the solution.
Chorizo is an interesting subject, all by itself. I,m surprised nobody has written a cookbook about the various incarnations and flavors that go by that name. For this recipe, I used Salvadoran chorizo, which, like most of the varieties from Mexico and Central America, is a raw sausage that has to be cooked. The chiles used in Salvadoran chorizo give off an oily reddish colored juice that gives it a characteristic color and a unique flavor, with only moderate heat. I wish I knew precisely what those peppers are. Oh well.by
For some reason, I was craving a sandwich the other day while researching some egg recipe ideas that were bouncing around in the back of my head. That’s when I stumbled on a French-themed brunch sandwich dubbed croque mademoiselle. A quick tour around the net turned up a croque monsieur, and a croque madame, too. These sandwiches all had a couple of things in common: grilled bread, ham, some kind of cheese and an egg on top. So for fun, I decided to make my own version, which has been dubbed croque Frere, in honor of my little brother, who has a birthday coming up shortly.
The idea was to use what I happened to have in the fridge, which consisted of some leftover honey-glazed ham, a little compte cheese, and a partial container of crème fraîche. Rather than use bread, I opted for breakfast biscuits I’d made that morning, just because they were handy.
The sandwiches were fantastic and will likely be a goto for late breakfasts and lunches around the house. The cheese sauce, which was inspired by the croque mademoiselle featured in my favorite egg cookbook, Eggs on Top, was the star. The comte cheese, which subbed for the Gruyère in the original, gave the sauce some nutty flavor that worked very well with the tang of Dijon and shallots. And those did well with the sweetness of the ham.
Give this one a shot. It’s worth the little bit of effort.
- For each sandwich, a large biscuit (about 3 inches across), sliced
- Sliced, baked ham (honey glazed is best)
- 3 Tbsp. creme fraiche (or sour cream)
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. minced shallots
- 1/2 to 1 cup grated Compte cheese (Gruyere or even Parmesan will work, too)
- Softened butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A fried egg (over easy)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Generously butter the biscuits and grill them on a griddle until the surface is browned and crunchy. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, stir together the creme fraiche, mustard, shallots and grated cheese. If it's too thick, thin with a little milk.
- On a baking sheet, place the ham on the bottom biscuit slice, top with the cheese sauce and the biscuit top. Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese sauce is hot and bubbly.
- Place the sandwich on a warm plate, top with the fried egg and serve immediately.
Now that the weather has broken and we’re finally seeing the spring blossoms, I’ve been thinking about a trip to the beach. It’s still a little early to actually go there, but soon. Real soon. In the meantime, there is seafood. This pan-fried fish with pineapple dish is something I’ve made often during our vacations to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where I have access to various fresh-off-the-boat varieties of fish. For this version made last week, the freshest thing I could find was some nice tilapia, but it’s especially good with snapper, halibut or any firm white fish that can be pan-fried.
The combination of grilled pineapple, which has its own sweet/sour character, and the gastrique, which is a French version of a sweet and sour sauce, works beautifully with the sautéed peppers and onions and the pan-fried fish. The dish comes off as a sort of cross between Polynesian and Caribbean with just a hint of Cantonese. I’ve also made this with a little Jalapeno, to give it a kick.
The combination of grilled fruit and a companion gastrique is one of those things I’ve made a note to explore. I think there are some amazing things to be done there, once fresh local fruit starts appearing again. Yet another reason to be eager for summer to arrive.
- 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into spears
- 1-2 fish fillets per person (firm white fish such as tilapia, snapper, halibut, sole)
- Flour for dredging
- Olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 3 tbsp. water
- 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup pineapple juice
- Grill the pineapple spears (or run them under the broiler) until just lightly browned, then cut
- into chunks and set aside.
- Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom.
- When the oil is hot, dredge each fillet in flour, shake of excess and add to the hot pan. When the
- fish is cooked about half way through (timing depends on thickness) turn the fish and cook
- until lightly browned and opaque clear through. Remove to a warm plate.
- In a second frying pan, heat a little more oil and quickly saute the onions, peppers and scallions
- just until the onions are start to soften.
- Put the fish fillets on individual plates, top with the sauteed vegetables, grilled pieapple and the
- pineapple gastrique.
- Serve immediately.
- (This can be made ahead, stored in the refrigerator and rewarmed just before using).
- Combine 3/4 cup of sugar and water in a small saucepan.
- Heat the mixture without stirring until it turns a nice golden color.
- Add the 3/4 cup of vinegar all at once (be careful, the sugar is very hot)
- The sugar will crystallizes and looks terrible, but continue to heat and stir it until the sugar
- Add the pineapple juice and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until it reduces by half and is thick
- and syrupy.
- Make the gastrique ahead of time and rewarm, if necessary, before plating.
If you’ve been hanging around Discovery Cooking for any length of time, you have most likely noticed that I love Mediterranean food. The food from Spain, southern France, Italy, Greece the Middle East and northern Africa is healthy, but it’s also amazing in its flavors and its variety. I’m also a collector of Mediterranean cookbooks. So when a friend on Twitter introduced me to Amy Riolo, who was about to publish a Mediterranean cookbook, I naturally struck up a chat with the author and pre-ordered the book. It arrived a week ago and I immediately spotted this Sizzling Rosemary Shrimp recipe and decided to give it a try.
As a rule, I don’t slavishly follow recipes or pass along someone else’s recipes here, but this recipe is one of the exceptions, because the cookbook is very, very good. Even better, this particular recipe is — like a lot of good Mediterranean food — delicious, simple and healthy. Amy’s book is The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, and you must immediately buy it here. Seriously.by
It’s been awhile since I’ve had guests for lunch, so when one of my neighbors offered to come by to help with a few chores, I thought it might be nice to offer up a sandwich in partial compensation. The neighbor hails from Texas originally, so I decided to whip up a burger that evoked a little of the southwest. This chicken burger fit the bill nicely.
Making burgers isn’t rocket science, of course. What makes one special is attention to detail. A plain old chicken burger really doesn’t have much flavor, but incorporate a few ingredients and some herbs and spices, serve it on a nicely grilled bun and top with cheese, bacon and vegetables and you’ve not only got a ton of flavor, but a pretty balanced meal in the bargain.by
I came across the original version of this leg of lamb stuffed with apricots maybe six or seven years ago, probably in a magazine in a waiting room somewhere, but I remember that at the time, it was so simple, I didn’t bother to pilfer the magazine or copy the recipe. I did make a note that it used something called ras al hanout. I couldn’t find it in any grocery, nor had online shopping reached the point then where finding such a thing was possible. So I improvised. Overtime, it got better with each preparation, but still didn’t have the flavor I imagined it should.
A year ago, or so, I finally decided to make my own authentic ras al hanout, and last week, tried this out again. The authentic spice blend got the lamb exactly where I wanted it to be. Despite an overnight marinade, the flavor is mild, and I’d say less “gamey” than what I find to be typical of lamb. Much of the Moroccan character of the dish, in fact, is concentrated in the apricots and is very aromatic. In place of heavily flavored meat there is this amazing aroma that envelopes the table when the lamb leg is sliced.by