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Poached Apricots

Poached Apricots

I cannot buy fruit quickly enough for my kids.  I no sooner come back from the market with an abundance of peaches, plums, apricots and berries, and they are gone!  With the warm weather approaching (we hope), fruit is a daily part of breakfast and dessert. Apricots are especially abundant in the early part of summer, and this simple but elegant recipe for Poached Apricots can perform double duty, as breakfast served atop waffles, pancakes or French toast, and as a stand-alone dessert.

When apricots become unavailable, try this method with peaches or plums.

Poached Apricots

  • 12 Apricots, halved and pits removed
  • 3 Cups water
  • 1 Cup white wine
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ Cup sugar
  • ¼ Cup Grand Marnier
  • Fresh mint, chopped

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, wine, sugar, vanilla bean and Grand Marnier to a simmer.

Stir until sugar dissolves.

Add the apricots and cover the pot.

Be sure the poaching liquid is just at a simmer, as you don’t want to boil the fruit.

When the apricots are tender (pierce with a knife), they are done (about 8 minutes).

Remove the apricots with a slotted spoon to a serving dish or bowl.

Bring the poaching liquid to a boil and cook until it is reduced to about ¾ cup.

Strain the poaching liquid and pour into a cup or bowl.

Chill the apricots and the poaching liquid, and serve well-chilled with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or sweetened ricotta that has been mixed with confectionary sugar. Garnish with chopped mint.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This dish can be made a day in advance.  Apricots will remain fresh for two days.

Ceviche

Ceviche

There is nothing quite like a chilled Ceviche to satisfy your appetite in the warm weather. And the recipe below is a winner.  I made it the other night for my family as a first course, and was sure there would be plenty left over for lunch the next day.  Wrong!!

Some suggested variations would be mussels instead of, or in addition to the clams.  And the addition of cherry tomatoes or diced avocado is lovely as well.

Enjoy!

Ceviche

  • 1 Pound Extra Large Shrimp (uncooked)
  • 2 Pounds Sea Scallops
  • 1 Pound Little Neck Clams
  • Juice of 1 ½ lemons
  • 1 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Lemon, cut and quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 2 Teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 Teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 Cup Olive Oil
  • ¾ Cup chopped celery
  • 1 Red bell pepper diced
  • ¼ Cup cilantro (or ½ cup flat leaf parsley), chopped

Fill a pan with 6 cups of water and toss in two of the quartered lemons.

When the water has come to a boil add the salt.

Peel the shrimp and cook until they are pink (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Drain the shrimp with a slotted spoon and put them in a large bowl.

Add the scallops to the pot of water and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain the scallops with a slotted spoon and put them in the bowl with the shrimp.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  Remember not to overcook the shrimp and scallops, as the acidity of the vinaigrette will help the seafood continue to cook.

In a shallow sauté pan, add two cups of water, three cloves of garlic and the remaining two quartered lemons, along with the scrubbed clams.

Place a lid on the pan and steam the clams open.

When the clams have opened, remove them with a slotted spoon and add them to the bowl with the shrimp and scallops.

Add the bell pepper, celery and chopped cilantro or parsley to the bowl.

In a blender, combine the Dijon mustard, lemon juice and garlic salt and black pepper.

Stream in the olive oil until it is emulsified and the dressing is smooth.

Pour the vinaigrette over the seafood and toss to coat.

Taste for seasoning.

Chill the ceviche for two to three hours.

Serve in glass bowls or martini glasses and garnish with a lemon wedge.

The Elegant Occasion Wine Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc

Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel

My husband, Tom, celebrated his birthday last week.  I made one of his favorite desserts, Crème Caramel, as his birthday cake. This silky custard is so rich and delicious; you have to savor every bite.

Don’t be intimidated by all the steps, as it really is simple to make.  And because it needs to chill overnight, it is a terrific dessert to serve when entertaining.

Crème Caramel

  • 2 ½ Cups heavy cream
  • ¾ Cup half and half
  • 2 Vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 Cup brown sugar
  • 4 Extra large eggs
  • 4 Extra large egg yolks
  • Pinch of salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, half and half, granulated sugar and vanilla beans.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves.  Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for one hour so the cream absorbs the flavor of the vanilla beans.

In a heat-proof bowl, melt the butter and brown sugar in the microwave until the sugar melts (about 1 minute).  Stir until the mixture looks smooth and resembles a thick syrup.

Pour the brown sugar/butter mixture into the bottom of a nine-inch cake pan.

Chill the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Remove the vanilla bean from the cream and scrape the seeds back into the cream.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the eggs, yolks and salt until smooth.

Add the cream to the eggs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is well combined.

Strain the custard through a mesh sieve directly into the frozen cake pan.

Place the cake pan inside a roasting pan.  Pour in enough boiling water to reach halfway up the side of the cake pan.  Do not get water in the custard or your crème caramel will not set when baked.

Loosely cover the cake pan with a piece of foil so the custard does not get dark during the cooking process.

Place in a 375 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center of the custard comes out clean.

Carefully remove the cake pan from the roasting pan and place the cake pan on a rack.

Allow the crème caramel to cool for three hours before covering with plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator.

The crème caramel should chill overnight.

When you are ready to serve, run the blade of a butter knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen it from the sides.  Immerse the bottom of the pan in hot water for 10 seconds to loosen the caramel sauce.

Invert the crème caramel on to a large serving plate.  Be sure to have a big enough plate, as the caramel sauce will pool all around the custard, making a beautiful presentation.

Serve immediately.

Pulled Pork Sliders with Fennel Cabbage Slaw

Pulled Pork Sliders with Fennel Cabbage Slaw

In honor of Memorial Day, which (hopefully) signifies the beginning of the summer BBQ season, I am bringing back a favorite recipe from a show I did last summer. These Pulled Pork Sliders with Fennel Cabbage Slaw are simply perfection!

Happy Memorial Day!

Pulled Pork Sliders with Fennel Cabbage Slaw

Serves 8-10

• Pork Loin Roast (3 1/2 pounds)
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
• 1 teaspoon garlic salt
• 1 large yellow onion, sliced thinly
• 2 tablespoons canola oil
• 3 cups chicken broth
• Slider rolls (preferably Martin’s Potato rolls)

To Prepare the Pork

Place Dutch oven over medium high heat, and add canola oil.
Season pork with garlic salt, and place in the hot pan.
Sear the pork on both sides until a crust forms (about 3-4 minutes per side).
When the meat has seared on both sides, add in the chicken broth, onions and peppercorns.
Cover the pan and place in the oven at 325 degrees for 3 hours (be sure to turn the meat over half way through the cooking process).
While the meat cooks, prepare the BBQ sauce.

BBQ Sauce
• 2 Cups Ketchup
• 1/2 Cup Cider Vinegar
• 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
• 3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
• 1 teaspoon Cumin
• 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
• 2 Tablespoons Honey
• 3 Dashes Hot Sauce (Tabasco) (more if you prefer it spicy)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

The Elegant Occasion Note: This sauce can be kept in the refrigerator (covered) for four days.

Fennel Cabbage Slaw
• 1 cup green cabbage (shredded)
• 1 cup red cabbage ( shredded)
• 1 cup fennel (shredded)
• ½ cup shredded carrot
• 2 cups mayonnaise
• 1 teaspoon celery salt
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• ¼ cup Dijon mustard
• ¼ cup buttermilk
• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
• ¼ cup crushed pineapple with the juice

To prepare the Cole Slaw
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, celery salt, sugar, pepper, Dijon, buttermilk, apple cider vinegar and two tablespoons of the pineapple juice.
Toss in the cabbage, carrot and fennel and coat evenly with the sauce.
Chill for at least one hour.

The Elegant Occasion Note: This slaw can be made 24 hours in advance, and will keep in the refrigerator for 3 days.
You will have extra sauce left. It is great as a condiment for sandwiches.

To Assemble the Sandwiches
Remove the meat from the pan and discard the broth, peppercorns and onions.
Place the pork on a cutting board and shred the meat with two forks.
Place a roll in the center of a plate and spoon the pork onto the roll.
Warm the BBQ sauce and spoon over the pork.
Top with a dollop of slaw.

The Elegant Occasion Beverage Pairing: Beer, especially smoked, amber, lager or wheat.
Wine: Beaujolais or Barbera

Goat Cheese and Cabernet Onion Jam Strudel

Goat Cheese and Cabernet Onion Jam Strudel

With the season upon us for graduation parties, bridal and baby showers and outdoor entertaining in general, this recipe for Goat Cheese Strudel is a must.  Easy to make and prepare in advance, this appetizer will impress your guests.

Don’t let working with Phyllo dough intimidate you.  Watch the video to see how easy it is!

Goat Cheese and Cabernet Onion Jam Strudel

Serves 6 – 8

  • 4 Sheets frozen Phyllo dough, defrosted according to package directions and laid flat
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 6 ounces onion cabernet jam (available at The Cheese Shop of Centerbrook or specialty markets)
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 Teaspoons water
  • 1 Stick unsalted butter, melted

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Carefully transfer one sheet of phyllo dough to the pan and (using a pastry brush) brush the dough all over with butter.

Place a second sheet of phyllo on top of the first, and repeat with the butter.

Continue these steps until the remaining two sheets of phyllo have been layered on top and brushed with butter.

Warm the onion cabernet jam in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds until it is spreadable.

Gently spread the jam onto the surface of the phyllo dough, leaving a two-inch border on all sides.

Crumble the goat cheese all over the jam.

Starting at the top edge (side furthest from you), roll up the pastry to encase the filling. Roll the strudel up until you have formed a log.

Tuck the ends under to keep the filling from oozing.  The seam closest to you will now be the seam underneath.

Brush the top with the egg wash (one egg beaten with the water).

Using a serrated knife, score the strudel gently so that when you cut it, you will be able to get between 6 to 8 slices.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking.

Bake at 350 until golden brown.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This strudel can be covered with plastic wrap and then foil.  Place in an airtight bag and freeze for up to three weeks.  Bake right out of the freezer as directed above.

The Elegant Occasion Note:  This strudel can be made with any flavor of jam you prefer.