Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Pasta with Pumpkin, Sausage and Sage

I have finally surrendered to Fall, after enjoying two fun-filled days at the Harvest Festival. I still have hundreds of photos (mostly of Tyler Florence) to sort through, organize and compile into recipes. After watching Tyler Florence make his beautiful dish of pan roasted rabbit with roasted pumpkin, harvest grapes, chestnut polenta and garnished with sage infused olive oil-- and garnished with fried sage leaves... I had pumpkin on the brain!

 I'm going to give my blubbering about  meeting Tyler Florence a rest for a few days-- instead, this is a recipe that I watched Rachael Ray make about 4 years ago. I've made it several times, and it's a nice way to work with pumpkin puree as a savory pasta.

This is super quick, folks-- though, it does take me 45 minutes to make in my small kitchen with minimal counter space.  I invite you to try this recipe, even if you aren't a Rachael Ray fan-- for whatever reason that is. Trust me, the first time I heard "Pumpkin Pasta" I thought "bleccccccccccch". I'm a new believer in this recipe. It's simple, with just a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, a little kick (I use HOT Italian turkey sausage) and just the right amount of sage to compliment the pumpkin puree.

Many of the ingredients for this dish are probably in your pantry. I didn't photograph the ingredients, but the shopping list isnothing hard to find, at all. You need penne pasta (I used farfalle, this time), Italian sausage (I use HOT Italian sausage), pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling), garlic, onion, olive oil, fresh sage, cinnamon and nutmeg. One of these days, I'm going to roast and puree fresh pumpkin. Still, I buy my canned pumpkin at Trader Joe's and I think it's just as good-- and a lot less work.

I always have fresh garlic and I'm fortunate to have a hearty sage plant in my backyard. I love sage, and I think it's perfect with pumpkin. Don't you?

Here's how easy it is, to make this delicious pasta dinner:

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate.

Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes.Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble.

Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream.

Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute.  This makes a lot-- 4-6 generous servings.
NOTE: Borrowing an idea from watching Tyler Florence, I infused a little olive oil with sage leaves. The oil, I drizzled over the pasta, and I garnished the pasta with the fried sage leaves.  Extra Yummy Units!

Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.  Do I dare say it?  "Yumm-o".  If you click on the picture, you can really see the sauce and the sausage-- it sure was good!

I haven't made a Rachael Ray recipe in a very long, for no particular reason.  I still like her, no matter what her harsh critics say. At least Rachael doesn't use canned cream of "whatever" soups, and she does use a lot of fresh herbs.  This is one of our favorite quick meals, that's a little different. This pasta dish screams "Autumn"!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Foodie Fairy Tale Comes True-- More Harvest Festival with Tyler Florence

Dear Fellow Foodies,

Would you say that this picture is worth a thousand words? Not only did I get a second chance for a photo with Tyler Florence...ladies and gentlemen...

I did not do a lipstick check too soon! In walked Tyler Florence, who spotted me and he remembered me!  Not only did he say hello to me, and "nice to see you again", but he told me that he visited my food blog!  Me!  What an honor!  I had a flood of reactions to that-- flattered, nervous, insecure and just amazed. He said that he found me in his Google Feed. Hmmmm, how many of his other Tyler Florence Fan Blogs does he visit? You never know!

Talk about a few minutes of one-on-one with Tyler... I asked him how his golf game went at Pebble Beach and he enthusiastically shared his experiece with me.

He also autographed my copy of Tyler's Cookbook "Tyler's Ultimate".

 Tyler cooked  pan roasted rabbit with a chestnut polenta, roasted pumpkin with a beautiful sage infused oil and fried sage as a garnish.

Craig had a wonderful day with me, and I think he's becoming a "Foodie".  We had an opportunity to explore all of the food booths, before the crowds arrived-- tasting to much fantastic food, wine and beer.  Five hours flew by fast.

Truly, I can tell you that Tyler Florence is not only a professional chef-- he's also entertaining. Most importantly, Tyler treats his fan as though we are all one big family.  He took the time to, articulately,  explain every step of what he's doing (just like on his Ultimate Show on Food Network). He allowed the audience to ask questions about food, and he patiently and thoroughly answered questions.   He graciously posed with lines of his fans, signed autographs and never did I seem him snub a single person.

...he also photographs his own dishes, and he posted this on his TWITTER. I didn't get to taste this one, but it looked and smelled amazing. I cannot wait to try chestnut flour, which I learned is gluten-free.

Tyler Florence is a star. I cannot wait to compose both meals that he cooked into a recipe format, so that I can share it with you.

I have over 200 photos to edit and compile into a story line.

Next year, come to the Second Annual Food & Wine Harvest Festival.  It was good times!

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

My personal dinner cooked by Tyler Florence, and given to me!!!

I just got home for Day #1 at the Food & Wine Harvest Farm-To-Table Event, being held at the beautiful Quail Lodge Resort-- located in Carmel Valley, California-- my hometown for most of my life.

I'm still quivering from excitement, that I need to calm down and (literally) digest all the fantastic food I have sampled.

The first thing I want to say about Tyler Florence... he's definitely a hottie, but most importantly-- he is a genuinely friendly and approachable chef.  I have to thank my dear friend, Dorothy, who put me on the volunteer list as a "Chef Gopher".

My wrist band gave me early access to the grounds-- three hours before it was open to the public. Yes, that's Stefan Richter of Top Chef and LA Farm. He is also very gracious and very charismatic.

He is also very friendly... and most gracious about being photographed with me! Muwaaaaah!

That's my friend, "Dorothy" (far left), checking in the chefs. I was her assistant (deep chuckle...)

There he is!  Tyler Florence, in the flesh... signing Dot's program.  Tyler has beautiful blue eyes, by the way-- and I caught him putting on his chef's coat. Need some help with that, Tyler? I got front row seats, thanks to Dorothy.

Do you see the photograph of Tyler, with his arm around me, posing for a photo? No? Um, hello, Dorothy...
YOU DIDN'T PRESS THE BUTTON!!! Imagine my weeping, as I realize she didn't take the shot... however, I said to Tyler that I am a participant in the food blog  Tyler Florence Fridays, and he looked at me a smiled. Then he said "that's lots of fun, huh?"  Tyler Florence spoke to me!  My consolation prize, for missing out on a photo of me with Tyler (it really happened)  is yet to come...

So, I forgive Dot for not taking the shot... you see, once all the chefs were checked in, she grabbed me and said that our job was to ask each Chef's Station if they needed anything. I got a white wrist band, that gave me unlimited access to everything!

We inspected the wine glasses and surveyed the tents-- no crowds yet. It was still early...

This pork had been cooking since last night, with oak... pulled pork, my husband's favorite!

 We were offered a taste....

...and I was given a full bottle of cold Stella Artois beer, and was given the glass to keep!  But, back to Tyler's cooking demo...

There is so much more to tell you, but I'm going to tell you that my biggest highlight of all was watching Tyler Florence make a fabulous meal of fresh Alaskan salmon, seared and cooked to perfection. He also made a beautiful herb sauce, fresh baby heirloom tomatoes cooked almost a beautiful relish, a fresh corn succotash with bacon, onion and fresh veggies and perfect tempura style squash blossoms.  I will show you how he made it...

Dorothy's husband, Fatih (third from the left of Stephan Richter) took photos of Tyler Florence picking me-- and my new friend, Michelle, and giving us his plated meal to enjoy!  Yes! Me!!  He waited while I took a bite, standing right in front of me (my fork was trembling) while I took a taste.  I gave Fatih some of our meal, to bribe him into giving me photos of Tyler feeding me! Not only is Tyler Florence a hottie, genuinely nice-- but he can cook!  It was excellent!

Tomorrow is Day #2, and I have a pass for my husband to come with me. Craig knows how to take photos, so I'm determined to get another photo of me with Tyler Florence.

Having met Tyler Florence, and Stephan Richter, and eating Tyler's life is complete... until tomorrow. Lots more photos to come!  (Though, I did meet Alton Brown and I enjoyed a meal by "Iron Chef", Nate Appleman, in May of this year. 

C'mon on a join us! There's still time to make it to beautiful Carmel Valley!  It's so worth the trip here.

Yours truly,
"The Chef Gopher",

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brie & Fig Jam Panino-- not your ordinary grilled cheese!

DISCLAIMER: This is one of my earliest photos, with my old point-and-shoot. I apologize that this isn't the best photo in the world, and I'll re-shoot it someday.  Please just trust me...Brie & Figs are a perfect match.

Several days ago, I was trying to decide what to do with a basket of fresh Black Mission Figs that I had purchased a day earlier.

I was just so happy to see fresh figs, that I bought them without a specific recipe on how I was going to prepare them. Then I remembered a conversation with my Foodie Friend, Dorothy. She told me how a friend of hers (who is an award winning chef) made a superb fig jam. She guessed that it had orange juice, port wine and finely chopped almonds in it.

So, I decided to see what I could create, without a recipe.  I simply cut each fig in half and scooped out the pulp. The container (12-15 figs...I didn't count them) yielded roughly a cup of the fig pulp (or is it meat?) In a sauce pan I put about 1/2 cup of sugar, the zest and juice of one orange and-- on impulse- a splash of balsamic vinegar. I brought it to a boil, on medium high. I tasted it, and I decided it was missing something. I had some Ruby Red Port Wine (I love cooking with it), so I added about 1/4 cup. While that reduced (about 15 minutes), I quickly toasted a handful of almonds until fragrant (2 minutes in a dry skillet) and then chopped them very fine, in a mini chopper. I added the almonds to the jam, at the end. I tasted it and I was did a happy dance! I didn't photograph how I made this, because I was totally winging it. I quickly wrote down the recipe (which is at the bottom of this page).

What did I do with most of this fig jam?  It has something to do with this ingredient:
Italian Prunes (also called Italian Plums or Stanley Plums)

(I've shared the recipe, and you can see my Bavarian Plum Galette here. )

I had about 1/2 cup of this delicious jam left, so I decided to make a Panini sandwich, with brie and fig jam. I don't own a panini press, but I have improvised my own-- it works great!

I have a square cast iron grilling skillet and a bacon press! I brush on some olive oil and bring it to a medium high heat. Maybe this isn't authentic, but I put a very thin schmear of unsalted butter (trying not to think of fat grams)on some sliced french bread (this happened to be sour dough, from my freezer).

Into the preheated skillet the sandwiches went for just a couple of minutes, and I gave the sandwiches a flip.
The bacon press does a pretty decent job of pressing the bread together, I think.

Two minutes later, these are ready. I present to you...

...a melted brie and fig jam panino!

This is why I wouldn't make a professional food stylist-- this shot is a bit out of focus, I know. I was in too much of a hurry to eat this, while it was hot, that I didn't get the focus just right.  Still, look at that cheese and jam...yummy!

One more shot, from the backside...

Heaven, I tell you. My husband gave this five stars. I caught him rooting in the fridge for more fig jam. It's gone. I'm crossing my fingers that, tomorrow, I can buy more fresh figs. I want to make a lot more of this jam!

TASTING NOTES: Figs and Brie are meant for one another.  Next time, I'd be very tempted to add caramelized, sweet onion to this sandwich... or maybe I'd add prosciutto!   That's why I enjoyed the grilled figs, brie and prosciutto so much, that I made during the summer. That might kick this one up, one more notch. We shall see...

The recipe card for the fig jam and sandwich is at the end of this post.

Buon Appetito!

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Ina Garten's "Beatty's Cake" for the Barefoot Bloggers

This is a very true story. Many years (maybe decades) ago, I was a full-fledged chocoholic. A friend of mine, who is a hypnotherapist, said that she could help me to control of  my insatiable appetite for any kind of chocolate. I won't get into the details of my session, nor the suggestion she gave my subconscious mind that would create an aversion to chocolate (you don't want to know...). All I can tell you is that, since then, I only have an occasional craving for chocolate! Even then, a bag of chocolate can last for months and months, untouched, in my cupboard. Crazier, still, is that I'd rather eat a Cadbury Fruit & Nuts bar or See's chocolates, in lieu of Godiva Belgian chocolate-- it's just too rich for me! 

So, here I was faced with a Barefoot Bloggers challenge of baking another Ina Garten cake recipe as the second of this month's chosen recipes! Mary of Passionate Perseverance  chose "Beatty's Cake" (found in Barefoot Contessa at Home) --a rich chocolate cake with chocolate frosting... a combination that I'm not particularly wild about (I like chocolate and white frosting).  However, my husband likes it and I was sure that I could find some takers once I had finished this cake. I just enjoy baking, so I was up for trying Mary's choice.

I liked the idea of using oil and buttermilk, instead of butter, which  I presumed would give the cake a lot of moisture. Besides, the frosting consisted of two sticks of butter!  I also like the idea of using coffee to enhance the taste of chocolate. I was going to be a good sport, despite my lukewarm love of chocolate cake and chocolate frosting-- so I decided to make Ina's recipe exactly as is,since this recipe has stellar reviews. Like Ina, I try my best to buy the best quality ingredients:

One of my golden rules in baking is to measure and prepare all of my ingredients. Baking is science, so it can ruin the whole recipe if you discover you're missing a vital ingredient.  I make a point of bringing my eggs and butter to room temp. Depending on the weather, that can take 30 minutes, to an hour.

Sometimes, I'm lazy and I don't sift my dry ingredients. This time, I made a point of it...

...because Dutch Cocoa can clump up.  I was also reminded that kosher salt doesn't sift well...duh!

One of my blogger buddies, Muneeba, just got a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer for her birthday. She's in for a treat! Mixing the batter, for this recipe, didn't even make me break a sweat. I simply mixed in the wet with the dry and the batter was ready in no time at all.

I make a point of  checking my cake about 5 minutes sooner than the recipe calls for, to reduce the risk of it being over-baked and dry. Ina's instructions say to bake this recipe between 30-40 minutes.  I used 2 9-inch pans and these were ready in 25 minutes!  Heed my warning, because my oven is calibrated to be pretty accurate! I allowed the cakes to cool for 30 minutes, per the instructions, and then put them on a cooling rack.

It's time to make the frosting-- I can finally use the espresso powder that I order from King Arthur. It's pretty cool stuff.  I like how fine the powder is, compared to instant coffee.  I've never made a buttercream frosting with an egg yolk, so I bravely went ahead--wondering if a raw egg would freak out anyone. I decided not to say anything.

The butter is whipped for about 3 minutes-- there's lots of air going in this!

Ina calls for 6 ounces of "good semi-sweet chocolate".  Well, Ina,  Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips is as good as it's gonna get!  I started to do the double boiler thing...then I thought, heck-- what are microwaves for? 90 seconds later... perfectly melted chocolate. Easy, eh?

 The only reason I'm publishing the photo of the egg yolk that is being added to the frosting is that I love the color. You cannot compare farm fresh free-range egg yolks with the commercial variety. I just love these eggs!

In goes the powdered sugar and then the melted and cooled chocolate.  I took a taste. Not bad! I do like chocolate chip cookies, so I do like semi-sweet chocolate.

So, what happened here?  The unspeakable-- some of the cake did not release. I plead the fifth.

The beauty of icing is that it's like putty-- you can fill in mistakes and nobody will be the wiser. Except for you, but it's our little secret. I have to say, this frosting is very silky and very easy to work with.

So, here's the big "TA DA".  Nothing exciting to look at, its it?  I pondered how to jazz it up... more chocolate fru-fru candies? No!  Roses from my garden? Nah.... It's a cake and I made it from scratch! That's good enough for me.

Craig eagerly waited for a slice of this cake, by eating a smaller portion of dinner. He prompty set aside a slice to take to work, and one for his co-worker who also has a sweet tooth for chocolate.

Does this make you chocoholics quiver with longing?

You can tell me to stop anytime...look away!  I admit, tthis is an excellent chocolate cake. You cannot taste the coffee-- in fact, the coffee really brings out the chocolate flavor loud and clear. The frosting is very creamy, and delicious.  I ate one small slice with vanilla ice cream-- to me, that softens the chocolate for my taste buds.I would definitely make this cake for someone who adores chocolate. It's very easy to make.

HOWEVER... my Chocolate Bliss Cake with a lighter chocolate filling and Fluffy White Frosting is still my favorite cake-- and it's pretty close to Ina's recipe. . I adore a white frosting anytime of the day. I doubt hypnosis will ever cure me of my love of white cake and white frosting. I can't resist it-- and I've had a hankering to make Ina's Coconut Cake.

If you'd like to join the Barefoot Bloggers in making Ina Garten's recipes, twice a month, please visit their website.  Psssssssssssst.... the next person to choose a recipe.... would you choose something that is chocolate free? No more cakes? Well, maybe Ina's Coconut cake? Then again, I'm ready for something with vegetables. My bathroom scale will thank you.

Mary, thanks for choosing this recipe. I love your blog-- what a touching story you have!

NOTE; If you are subscribing to my blog, via Feedburner, please JUMP to my blog to view or print the recipe(s) below.

Happy Baking!

Beatty's Chocolate Cake

If you love a moist cake that is rich is ...

See Beatty's Chocolate Cake on Key Ingredient.

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