Monthly Archives: June 2012

Strawberries and Cream Semifreddo

It’s not yet “officially” summer, but whew – the hot and humid South has once again dipped into the sticky sweetness we love to complain about.

But summer is what The South is all about. Front porches, women waving fans and glasses of iced tea clinking away.

Around our house, fireflies have begun bobbing in the dimming twilight, crickets and cicadas drone their strange song and our tomato plants are stretching toward the sun with plump green fruit swelling within.

For a nice cool-down dessert made to please a crowd, I recently made a strawberries and cream semifreddo, which is an Italian dessert that is pretty close to ice cream (half-frozen). Sliced, each serving is creamy and cold with pieces of sweet strawberries throughout. I like this dessert because it is so easy to make ahead and serve dinner guests – especially during summer months.

Adapted from Fine Cooking.

Strawberries and Cream Semifreddo

Ingredients:

For the semifreddo-

  • 1/2 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 egg yolks plus 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 c. heavy cream, chilled

For serving – 

  • 1 1/2 lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 3 T sugar

Line bread loaf pan with plastic wrap. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, cook sliced strawberries with 1/4 c. sugar, stirring, until berries soften and begin to break apart, 5-7 min. Set aside.

Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring 2 inches of water to simmer. Prepare another bowl with ice water for a water bath.

Put egg yolks and egg and remaining 1/4 c. sugar in medium bowl and whisk until well combined and pale yellow, about 2 min. Add reserved strawberry mixture and whisk to combine. Set bowl over simmering saucepan and whisk constantly until mixture is thick, 3-4 min. Set bowl in the ice water and whisk occasionally until cool, 5 min.

Meanwhile, whisk heavy cream until medium peaks form, 2-3 min.

Gently fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture until just combined. Pour mixture into the loaf pan, smooth surface, cover with plastic and freeze for at least 6 hours.

To serve, toss quartered strawberries with sugar and let sit until berries release some of their juices, 5-10 min.

Remove semifreddo from freezer and let it sit at room temp for 10 min. Invert onto cutting board, remove plastic and slice. Serve topped with quartered berries.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

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Seared Scallops with Pancetta and Radicchio

I’m writing this recipe even though I didn’t *love* it. However, I feel that the ingredients and seasonings were really great – I just don’t like radicchio. I’m sorry, but even with sugar and vinegar added, the radicchio was just too bitter to enjoy. That’s even with pancetta drippings all over it! Maybe my radicchio was old or something?

Anyway, if you love radicchio, you will love this. The soft, buttery scallops on top, the crispy pancetta, the blooming florals of rosemary and the sweet vinegar mixture drizzled over the top. It smelled heavenly.

I really hope somebody tries this and has more success than me! For now, radicchio just isn’t my favorite.

Seared Scallops with Pancetta and Radicchio

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 head radicchio
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 6 large scallops, cleaned and patted dry
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 6 oz. pancetta, small diced
  • EVOO
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped

Remove outer leaves from radicchio and cut head in half through root end, then cut each half into 4 wedges and remove white core. Set aside.

In a small bowl, dissolve sugar into vinegar. Set aside.

Season scallops with salt and pepper. Heat large skilled (cast iron is best) over medium heat until hot. Add pancetta and cook, stirring, until crisp, 5 min. Remove to paper towels to drain and pour off all but 3 T fat.

Increase heat to medium-high. Add scallops and sear until golden brown on each side, 2-3 min. per side. Transfer to plate and cover to keep warm.

Add onion and rosemary to the skillet and cook, stirring, until onion is softened, 3 min. Add garlic and stir 15-30 seconds, until fragrant. Add radicchio and pancetta, season with salt and pepper and cook, tossing gently, until radicchio is wilted, 2-3 min. Take skillet off heat and pour vinegar mixture over. Toss to combine.

To serve, plate radicchio and then top with scallops.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Couscous Cakes with Artichokes, Feta and Creamy Mint Sauce

Let me begin by saying that I love anything with artichokes. Growing up, my birthday dinner always included steamed artichokes, which provided tender leaves for me to pluck off and dunk in a lemon-butter sauce.

While artichokes don’t play a prominent role in this recipe, they add a certain olfactory nostalgia when I get a bite that includes the crispy couscous cake, tender artichoke and lemony mint dressing.

This recipe is a pleasant surprise that I easily made on a weeknight with some leftover couscous – remember my risotto cakes? Yeah, using leftovers in this fashion is amazing!

You start by mixing cooked couscous with lemon zest, eggs and a puree of chickpeas, parsley and garlic. Then you press them into 1/4 cup measuring cups  and pan fry them until golden on each side. The egg holds them together quite well – I only had one cake fall apart a bit. THEN you place them on a salad of lettuce (I used bibb lettuce), tomatoes, artichoke hearts and a delicious sauce made of sour cream, mint, lemon juice and olive oil. Finish with a sprinkling of feta cheese.

I think Grant was a disbeliever when he first saw me making this, but then the smells got him salivating and he ended up loving it.

Another splendid recipe from my Fine Cooking magazine that I can’t put down!

Couscous Cakes with Artichokes, Feta and Creamy Mint Sauce

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

For the dressing –

  • 2 T fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1 T low-fat sour cream
  • 1 tsp finely chopped mint leaves (it grows like a weed around here)
  • 5 T EVOO
  • Salt and pepper

For the couscous cakes –

  • 3/4 c. couscous
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large garlic glove, peeled
  • 1/4 c. packed Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 14-oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 T canola oil

For the salad –

  • Lettuce of your choice (spinach works well, or Romaine or bibb)
  • 14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained and sliced (I used Trader Joe’s frozen artichoke quarters and just thawed them and drained them)
  • 1 c. chopped fresh tomato (or cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 oz. crumbled feta cheese

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, sour cream and mint. Slowly whisk in olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Bring chicken stock to boil, then add 1 tsp salt and couscous. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then set aside to cool (or make ahead!)

In a food processor, add garlic and parsley, pulsing until chopped. Add chickpeas and 1 tsp salt and pulse until blended together.

In a medium bowl, mix together the chickpea mixture, couscous, eggs and lemon zest. Press mixture into 1/4-cup measure and invert to release the cake. Repeat with remaining mixture.

Heat 1 1/2 T oil in large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add enough cakes to fit, flattening them with a spatula a bit. Cook, flipping once, until browned on each side, then remove to a paper-towel lined plate to cool. Repeat with remaining cakes, adding more oil as necessary.

To assemble the salad, place lettuce on a plate, then tomatoes, artichokes and cakes. Drizzle with creamy mint sauce and finish with a sprinkling of feta.

So good! Just right for a warm night – eating outside or in front of the TV for the season finale of Mad Men (eeeek!).


Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

There is something significant about the aroma that occurs when you cook onions with bacon fat. I remember growing up, and mom would make this brussels sprouts dish that started with rendering bacon, then adding onion to the drippings, then the other vegetables, and adding a dash of vinegar at the end.

I never tried the brussels sprouts, but I loved that smell coming out of the kitchen and I can remember it to this day.

This salad is a classic, and I love making it as a starter because it’s not quite enough to be a hearty entree for two people. The spinach wilts under the warmth of the bacon vinaigrette, but holds up enough to add some crunch along with the salty bacon bits and boiled egg on top.

A perfect balance. Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Spinach Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

  • 6 oz. baby spinach (one store-bought container’s worth)
  • 3 T cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into medium pieces
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped medium
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered

In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, sugar, pepper and salt until sugar dissolves. Set aside.

Fry bacon in medium skillet, until crisp, 10 min. Transfer to paper towels to drain, reserving bacon fat in another container. Return 3 T bacon fat in the skillet. Add onion and cook over medium, until slightly softened, 3 min. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 15 seconds. Add vinegar mixture, then remove skillet from heat.

Place spinach in a large bowl and pour the vinaigrette mixture over it, tossing gently to get the spinach slightly wilted. Add the bacon and toss to combine.

To serve, plate spinach on serving plates, then top with egg quarters and extra cracked pepper, if necessary.

And dig in! Enjoy, friends xoxo