Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dark chocolate toffee

Category: Holiday
Source: Sonia Chung
They are heavenly and taste really good like Godiva store bought. They can easily be wrapped and used to gift for christmas presents. The almonds are optional and this time I used almonds from the batch that I toasted for the spicy almond recipe. They were pretty good! It's a bit tricky to get the toffee to harden at the right temp (candy thermometer wouldve been useful but I didnt have one). However it turns out great even if the toffee doesnt harden because then it is more like a caramel crunch.

1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 stick butter (unsalted)
2 tablespoons water
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
Almonds (toasted for 10 mins)

1) Heat these 3 ingredients to 290 degrees F. Books say it shouldnt bubble like lava but mine did and it still turned out awesome. I also read that all this should be done on low heat and I didnt really follow that either -- maybe next time. Use a thermometer (i used a meat one but a candy thermometer would probably be better).
2) Quickly mix 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour over toast almonds (on a cookie sheet). Some websites say that mixing spoons or using a sugared spoon to mix the tofee could cause it to crystallize so be ware of that.
2) Sprinkly bittersweetchocoate chunks.
3) Spread like frosting over toffee - and sprinkle withtoasted almonds.
4) Let cool for a few hours; when cooled - break into smaller pieces.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Scallops with mixed green salad and risotto

SOURCE: Inspired by Tyler Florence recipe on food network (mine is easier)
Scallops (6)
Unsalted butter (2 tsp)
Olive oil (2 tsp)
1 cup Arborio rice (risotto; remember this will become two or three times its size)
2 small pieces portabella mushroom or 1 larger piece
4-5 cremini mushroom (othe rmushrooms like shitake also ok but note that they are much more expensive)
Half onioin chopped (preferably white onion)
2 pods fresh garlic
Chicken stock -- 1 container or 4-5 cups
1/2 cup white wine
Italian parsley (probably could be done with cilantro if no parsley)
Thyme (recipie calls for fresh but I used dried)
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

Mixed green salad with red wine vinegar (Accompaniment)

Making the seared scallops (5 minutes):
Rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry. Add the butter and oil to a 12 to 14-inch saute pan on high heat. Salt and pepper the scallops (fresh ground pepper and kosher or regular salt). Once the oil begins to smoke, gently add the scallops, making sure they are not touching each other. Sear the scallops for 1 1/2 minutes on each side. The scallops should have a 1/4-inch golden crust on each side while still being translucent in the center. Serve immediately.

Making the Risotto (30 minutes):
In the same skillet that you make the scallops, add 2 tblsp oil and when hot add chopped onions and garlic. Toss. Add chopped parsley and thyme. Add mushrooms and let simmer till water comes out (5 mins). Season with salt and pepper.
My recommendation would be to switch now to a deeper non-stick with a deeper bottom. Add the cup and half of risotto. Toss. Its should become opaque. Season.
Add 1/2 cup dry wine (pinot grigio will be good but I used chardonnay because its all I had) and cook 1 minute till alcohol evaporates. Add 1 cup of stock and simmer. Add 2nd cup and third. Simmer for at least 15 minutes and keep adding stock to prevent drying. Risotto is ready when it is firm but creamy. Sprinkle parmesan cheese. Mix. Drizzle with butter or olive oil and garnish with parsley.

Plating: Greens with dressing, 2 scallops and a serving of rissotto.

Proscuitto Wrapped Dates

SOURCE: Michelle VanDriel. Also on
This is a very simple but AMAZING appetizer that always get requests during thanksgiving and christmas seasons. It blends together the sweet flavor of dates, pepper and cheese from the boursin and the crisp wonderful taste of proscuitto. For this dish, I shopped at whole foods -- it was easy to find fresh medjool dates and top shelf proscuitto (8 slices were under a dollar).
Prosciutto (8 thin slices)
Boursin (pepper flavor)
Medjool dates (10).
Preheat oven to 400. Deseed dates. Stuff with a sliver of boursin. Wrap with a small piece of prosciutto. Some dates can be left vegetarian without proscuitto if needed. Bake for 6 minutes. Serve immediately.