Happy Autumn!

A gentle October breeze, a cozy barn in the Santa Barbara foothills... long plank tables, hay bale seating, soft folk melody playing in the background and the smell of sweet and savory spices cooking, was the back drop to our Harvest dinner. Lots of friends all gathered excitedly at the table for a five course meal... me included. We had planned multiple courses infused with chocolate notes. Being a truffle workshop it seemed likely a lovely tie in. However, I had no idea how our chefs Nicole Hernandez and David Eng would pull it together for us! Braised Short Ribs with Chocolate and Rosemary, Sweet Potatoes, Andouille Sausage Soup, Butternut Squash Pasta with Sage over Linguini with Chocolate Dust and a lovely light little Salad with a Chocolate Vinaigrette Dressing. INCREDIBLE... oh and my personal favorite, the Roasted Grape Crostini appetizer! I ate wayyyy too many!

As the evening came to a close our guests asked us to share these delectable recipes with them and as promised dear friends, here are a couple to get you started. We will follow with more recipes next week, along with a few more photos from our dinner. Enjoy and Happy Autumn to one and all!

Roasted Grape Crostini 

2 cups of Seedless Grapes (more depending on how many to serve)
3 - 4 TBSP Olive Oil, plus extra to drizzle on bread
Pyramid Salt
1 - 2 tsp Honey
sprigs of fresh Thyme (or ½ tsp dried Thyme)
2 cups of fresh Ricotta Cheese
French Baguette cut into ½ inch slices

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Drizzle 1 tablespoons of Olive Oil on baking sheet.
  2. Remove Grapes from stems and place on prepared baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle remaining Olive Oil over Grapes and sprinkle with a pinch of Salt.
  4. Roast Grapes in the middle of the preheated oven for about 12 - 18 minutes or until soft to touch.
  5. In the meantime, prepare ½ inch bread slices.
  6. Lightly drizzle with Olive Oil on one side.
  7. In a Panini press (or on a grill), toast bread on medium heat until golden marks are formed and it is perfectly toasted to your liking on both sides.
  8. By now the grapes should be ready. Remove from oven to cool for a minute.
  9. Mix a teaspoon of honey into 2 cups of ricotta cheese
  10. Now assemble your Crostini.
  11. With the olive oil side of toast, top with 1 - 2 tablespoons of Ricotta Cheese. Top with a spoonful or two of the Roasted Grapes sprinkle with pyramid salt and fresh thyme leaves.
  12. Serve immediately while warm.

Butternut Squash Pasta with Sage over Linguini with Chocolate Dust

1 large butternut squash, about 1 1/2 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, minced
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
Pinch ground nutmeg
6 fresh sage leaves, cut in thin strips
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup freshly grated or shaved Pecorino Romano
Chopped walnuts, for garnish
Grated dark chocolate bar for dusting

Directions

  1. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise to remove the seeds and strings. Peel the skin using a paring knife and cut the squash into small cubes.
  2. Place the olive oil and shallots in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the shallots begin to color, add the squash and season with salt and pepper. Saute a few minutes to lightly caramelize the surface of the cubes. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg, sage, and chicken broth. Cover the pan and cook until the squash is tender but still holding its shape, about 8 minutes.
  3. Puree the sauce with a standard or immersion blender and serve with potato gnocchi. Top with grated cheese and chopped walnuts and grated dark chocolate dust before serving.

Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

Italian Sunday Sessions

with Nicole Hernandez & Amy Withers Riedl

Cooking has a sensational way of bringing the flavors and memories of other places and cultures home. One of the greatest gifts Nicole has mentioned in life was the pleasure of living in New Orleans long enough to not only work on the preservation of its beautiful historic architecture but also to learn some of the amazing local recipes from friends. With its roots in Spanish and French and Caribbean culture, New Orleans is famous for its unique, spicy dishes. Now that fall is approaching, you may be ready to get back into the kitchen and spend a cool afternoon cooking.

Jambalaya is a New Orleans favorite and is great for serving to large groups.  One of my favorite traditions of local New Orleanean families is to set up a spot on the Mardi Gras parade routes and cook and serving Jambalaya with cocktails to accompany the festivities.  Jambalaya was created in Louisiana and has its origins in Spanish paella. Jambalaya is traditionally made in three parts, with meat, vegetables, and is completed by adding homemade stock and rice.

Meat - Chicken and Sausage

Cook Chicken and Stock:

1 whole chicken
2 stocks celery with leaves chopped in thirds
1 whole onion quartered
1 garlic clove - slice in half
2 cups long grain white rice
 
Place entire whole chicken in large pot and surround with celery, onion and garlic. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour until the chicken is fully cooked.  Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Strain out vegetables from the stock- the rich flavor of the complete dish comes from this homemade stock.

Add 2 cups of white rice to the chicken broth and set to boil. As soon as it boils, lower heat to medium-low and cover for 20 minutes to cook the rice. Once the chicken has cooled, finely shred the chicken and set aside.

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New Orleans also has some of the most flavorful hams and sausages and add so much flavor to their dishes. Variations we used included, andouille sausage, a smoked, spicy sausage made using pork and tasso ham. Tasso ham is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine. It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork. It is used in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes, soup to gravy. Appropriate to its roots, tasso is most often found in recipes of southern or Cajun/Creole origin, such as jambalaya.

1 pound of andouille sausage chopped to small pieces (this is found in most grocery stores all over the country)
1 pound of tasso ham chopped to small pieces (this is much harder to find outside of Louisiana-and can be substituted with a thick spicy ham.)
Sauté the sausage and ham until brown in a large skillet and set aside.

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Vegetables

Many traditional New Orleans recipes start with what the local cooks call “The holy trinity” which is equal parts of chopped onion, celery, and green bell pepper.

1 yellow onion chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2 stalks of celery finely chopped
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot pepper sauce (like tabasco)

In a large skillet sauté your "holy trinity" for 8-10 minutes until soft and onions are translucent.
Add 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and a 8 oz can of tomatoes and stir.

Assemble

Add the vegetables, shredded chicken, sausage and ham to the rice and stir thoroughly. Add two bay leafs, salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste and thoroughly stir. Cook on medium low heat for 20 minutes then serve warm with fresh crusty French bread.

Savory Hatch Chili and Shrimp & Goat Cheese Crepes

Italian Sunday Sessions

with Nicole Hernandez & Amy Withers Riedl

The first sign of fall is the appearance of flavorful green chilies from Hatch, New Mexico. Famous for their rich flavor combined with the perfect amount of spicy heat, they fill the crispy fall air with the most amazing smell when they are being roasted. If you are looking for a great unique recipe in which to use these seasonal treats, this savory crepe recipe is decadent as the delicate crepes add a elegant base for the spicy shrimp chili cream sauce. The crepes can be a a great main course for brunch or dinner or they can be sliced for an impressive appetizer.

1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
3 Hatch Chilies - Roasted (directions for roasting below)
1 pound raw, peeled and deveined shrimp
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 oz goat cheese
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
Crepes (recipe to follow)

Roasting Chilies

Put 3 Hatch Chilies on a parchment lined backing sheet in the broiler or place chilies directly over a grill until one side is well charred and turn them over.  Once evenly charred remove from the oven and put into a paper or plastic bag to cool.  The steam loosens the skin.  Once cool, peal the skin off and remove inner seeds from chilies and discard and finely chop the meat of the chili.

Filling for Crepes

In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and add  the chilies with 1 pound chopped raw shrimp and saute until the shrimp turn completely pink.  Add 4 oz of goat cheese and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cream along with a dash of salt and pepper and saute until the sauce thickens.  If the sauce is too thick add a bit more cream and set aside.

Topping for Crepes

In a sauce pan heat 1/2 cup cream with a bay leaf and salt and pepper just to warm.

Crepes

1 cup organic unbleached flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons melted butter

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs.  Gradually add the milk, water  and mix completely.  Add the salt and butter and beat until smooth.

Add a small pat of butter to a round skillet over medium heat and let melt.  Pour a 1/4 cup of the patter into the melted buttered pan, tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter thinly coats the surface evenly.

Cook the crepes about 2 minutes until the bottom is a light brown and easily to slide a spatula under a flip to cook the other side. Put on a plate and start next crepe.

Assemble. Fill each crepe with the shrimp and chili cream sauce and roll, drizzle the warm bay leaf cream sauce over the top and serve warm.

Strawberry Semifreddo

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Italian Sunday Sessions

with Nicole Hernandez & Amy Withers Riedl

Several weeks ago, we featured the French Cheese, Crème Fraiche, with Peaches as a dessert. Today we are letting Italian Mascarpone Cheese be the star paired with California Strawberries for a refreshing summer desert. Mascarpone cheese is a creamy, rich, slightly bitter Italian cheese similar to American cream cheese.  It is most famous for being the key ingredient in Tiramisu.  Often used in making a rich risotto Nicole commented "it lends itself to sweet and savory giving the recipes a distinct Italian essence." Semifreddo means "half cold" in Italian and maintains a soft, velvety texture for this lush, creamy Italian dessert.

This weekend we created a sweet strawberry semifreddo with shaved chocolate.  It serves well like a richer whipped cream to which you can add as or with a favorite topping to give your dessert something new and unexpected. After a hot Sunday at the beach,  Nicole went on to serve what was left to friends in between shortbread cookies to make a little semifreddo sandwich. This also made a perfect marriage to which she added  "The sweet cookie brought out the creamy richness of the semifreddo and made a great beachy summer dessert."

Strawberry Semifreddo

1 small basket of strawberries chopped.
1 tablespoon water
1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
½ cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz mascarpone cheese
5 Tablespoons confectioners (powdered) sugar

Put the chopped strawberries and tablespoon of water in a sauce pan and boil together for five minutes to make a syrup - then let chill

Whip the cream, mascarpone cheese and sugar in a mixing bowl for a minute until resembles whipped cream, add the strawberries and syrup and chill in the fridge.  We chilled this version but found it spread in between shortbread cookies also worked beautifully... and just savored the complexity that the mascarpone gives to this dessert.

Homemade Pepper Pasta

Italian Sunday Sessions

with Nicole Hernandez & Amy Withers Riedl

One of the first conversations I had with Amy was about our mutual love of Alice Waters, the chef that inspired our generation to make cooking with fresh, beautiful ingredients as a way to enrich every ordinary day.  So this pasta recipe is from the Chez Panisse Café cookbook.  It was such an amazing treat for me to be able to make this pasta with my fellow devoted Alice Waters fan Amy and her sweet, little 2 year old Harrison, whose little hands were happily busy helping knead the dough.

Homemade Pepper Pasta

2-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tsp olive oil
1 tablespoon water

Blend the flour and salt and set aside. Blend the eggs, oil and water in a separate bowl. Make a well in the flour mixture with a spoon and pour egg mixture into the bowl and gradually start mixing into the flour mix until well blended and continue to knead until you have a smooth elastic mixture. Flatten the dough and wrap in plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. Then you can start pulling off pieces and running through the pasta cutting machine.  I flattened to #5 on the machine and cut the fettuccine. After 45 minutes cook pasta in boiling salted water for about 4 minutes and drain to add to sauce.

Note:  Roll and cut out all the dough into pasta as the dough does not save well.  You can refrigerate the pasta once cut for a day if you have too much.
 
While pasta is resting for 45 minutes. Prepare the sauce - makes enough sauce for 4 servings.
 
This sauce has a Spanish flair with a spicy Anaheim hot chili pepper and Spanish Manchego cheese that give it a robust distinct flavor while the cream gives it a elegant richness.

Pepper Cream Sauce

1 spicy chili relleno pepper (medium spice)
3 sweet peppers in a variety of colors and shapes (1/2 of each)
1/4 onion or shallot
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2  cup heavy cream
Shaved Manchego cheese to taste

Amy and I ran across the most amazing peppers at the Farmers Market. The reds, oranges, yellows were stunning and the different shapes so elegant as they were all sort of thrown together to make the perfect painting there on the table. We both love a little spice so we chose one of the chili relleno peppers, a three sweet peppers red, orange and another long, multi-color, Italian sweet pepper.

Thinly slice the peppers and onion. Heat olive oil in skillet and add the peppers and onion and crushed garlic and saute until vegetables are soft, add salt and pepper to taste. Add the fresh pasta to the skillet and mix, add the cream and stir for 2 minutes for sauce to thicken slightly.  Serve and top with fresh shaved Manchego cheese.