I'm a sucker for colors. It's the artist in me. Walking through the grocery store isn't about sustenance but rather a source of inspiration for creativity. I look at produce in terms of colors. What colors can I combine that will give me contrasting flavors and textures?
Beets were the springboard here. The color is the most gorgeous of all produce! So I knew I wanted to slice and cook some beets in a sugar syrup. To that syrup I added my favorite liquor, St. Germain (elderflower) for a light floral note. Once the beets were done, I removed them and cooked some sliced fennel in the syrup. When the fennel was done, I placed it in a container with a straight St. Germain simple syrup (without the beet juice) and let the beets sit in the juice they were cooked in. I then added some sliced oranges to the syrup with the beets and let them both sit in the refrigerator for two days.
I had a package of fresh cranberries in the fridge. So I made a simple cranberry orange relish. Now, we need something to balance the obvious sweet, citrus and acidity. I thought that a vanilla bean Panna Cotta (from the cookbook) if it was poured into a sheet pan to set up could be cut into squares (next time I'll do circles using a biscuit cutter) to layer with the oranges. I froze the Panna Cotta so that it wouldn't compress when layered and thawed very quickly, which allowed me to plate several and were ready to serve at the right temperature within 15 minutes while remaining stable and upright.
When I tasted all of the ingredients after they macerated for a couple of days, I decided the beets were still a bit too savory for a fruit course. So I layered fresh orange, Panna Cotta, macerated orange, another slice of Panna Cotta, fresh orange and then a small dollop of the cranberry orange relish and topped that off with some of the candied fennel. A drizzle! That's what the plate needed. So I poured a few drops of the beet syrup into my straight St. Germain simple syrup for a slight purple tint and drizzled that around the plate. But now I needed crunch. So I lightly toasted (and very lightly salted) pecans and scattered them over the tower and around the plate. Topped off with a snip of a micro green and voila! - there's my fruit course. Everyone raved and not a drop came back on a plate. And fennel is not something everyone loves!
The only improvement I think would be a Tuile cookie or even a thin slice of biscotti. I'll work on that and report back.
The recipe in the book for the sauce that dresses the poached eggs is good. But I wanted more of it. And as you can see from the cookbook photo, the sauce was thick. I wanted more of a creamy, pourable consistency. So I decided to change it a bit. I first caramelized the poblanos and onions, then add heavy cream (in this 9 inch pan I added about a pint but this will serve 8 or so!) and reduce over medium heat until the sauce can coat the back of a spoon. Then I add the sour cream (to this amount I added about 3/4 of a cup), then a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, salt to taste and freshly cracked pepper. And then just before serving I add a drizzle of Fiore chipotle olive oil. Someone once told me "That sauce is so good I could bathe in it!". So below is a video to show you the desired consistency. Enjoy!
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And here's today's version (pardon the iPhone shot)! I use plenty of sauce so that it wilts the baby spinach I serve under the dish.
Dana's Gourmet Granola
Makes approximately 5 cups
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups thick cut oats (not quick cooking)
¾ cup shredded coconut
¾ cup sliced almonds
½ cup pecans
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup golden raisins
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the oil and honey in small glass mixing cup and microwave for 90 seconds. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl combine the sugar, oats, coconut, almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and raisins and mix well. Add the oil and honey mixture and mix with spatula until very well coated.
Spread the granola onto a baking sheet and bake until just lightly browned, about 25 to 30 minutes, stirring halfway through to ensure even cooking.
Store in an airtight container in the pantry for up to 1 week. The cooked granola freezes very well and keeps for a couple months.
One of the recipes in the cookbook is Monte Cristo French Toast - but this morning I decided to put it together a little differently, the ingredients are the same, it's just layered and prepared with a small change, a little easier. It's essentially a griddled French Toast layered with ham and cheese and then baked, served open face. The one in the cookbook is actually a sandwich dipped in the batter and then griddled. Either way, it's one of my favorite combinations of sweet and salty!
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon Maine Maple Mustard (from Hannaford) or add 1 tablespoon maple syrup to 1 tablespoon of any sweet mustard
a few twists of freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
thick sliced white or egg bread
thinly sliced smoked ham
Mix eggs, milk, mustard, (maple syrup if using non-maple mustard), salt and pepper and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Dip bread into mixture to soak, then cook in non-stick pan until browned on both sides, about 3-4 minutes each side. Remove to oven safe baking dish.
Top each slice of bread with thinly sliced apple, then a couple slices of ham followed by a generous handful of cheese.
Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. Then broil on low for 2 minutes.
I serve mine with pure maple syrup and a raspberry coulis and raspberry preserves.