Thursday, August 16, 2007

Another Mini-Break . . .

. . . and then I'll be back to blogging. There's so much going on in my world right now that I've been on hiatus from both cooking and blogging. I'm still reading all my favorite bloggers, though it's through my rss feed. So if I don't leave as many comments, please know I haven't forgotten you.

See you in September. :)

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Roasted Beets With Duck Confit And Toasted Hazelnuts

Roasted Beets with Duck Confit and Toasted Hazelnuts
Christine's original recipe
3 medium red beets, roasted
duck confit from one leg, cut into slivers
3 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons blackberry balsamic pear vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard, such as Maille
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (I wish I'd had hazelnut oil)
A few grains kosher salt
A few grinds black peppercorns
A celery leaf from the heart of the bunch for garnish

To make the dressing, combine the vinegar and mustard in a glass measuring cup and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until the mixture is emulsified. Add a tiny pinch of kosher salt to taste along with a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk and set aside.

To roast the beets, wash and trim them and wrap each one in a square of foil, bringing the edges to the top of each beet and sealing them. Place on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven and roast for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and open the foil to allow the beets to cool slightly.When they can be handled without burning your hands, peel the beets and thinly slice crosswise.

To toast the hazelnuts (and hopefully you will have done this long before now), place them on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven and toast them for no more than 12 to 15 minutes, watching them carefully so they don't burn. When they smell delicious, they're done. Pour the nuts onto a dishtowel and, bringing the towel over the nuts, rub them until much of the brown skin comes off. Not all of it will be removed and that's okay.

To assemble, place a very small pool of vinaigrette on a small plate and top with several slices of beet followed by the slivered duck confit and some coarsely chopped hazelnuts. Drizzle a bit more vinaigrette around and over, garnish with a celery leaf and serve.

Cooks' Notes:
The vinegar used for the salad dressing is from Tulocay's Made in Napa Valley. It's thick and rich and was a perfect compliment to the beets and duck.
This was served along side a bowl of cream of celery soup, the recipe for which is posted here.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Cream of Celery Soup With Fresh Tarragon

Having just returned from a week in Ashland, which was, by the way, delightful in every way, and having not gone to the grocery store yet, Mr CC and I were poking around in the fridge and cupboards last night looking for something to fix for dinner when the unmistakable odor of "relaxing" produce hit our noses as the vegetable crispers were opened. I am being kind. It was gross.

A cucumber, jalapeno pepper, parsley, salad greens, and some unidentified slimey green stuff all went to the racoon feeder compost bin (same thing, really).

We tend to stock up on produce, especially when we go to the Saturday Farmers Market, planning meals for the week. Then life happens: an invitation to dinner; a musical event; the theater. And dinner isn't prepared one, sometimes two nights that week and some of the produce sits neglected. And then it becomes inedible.

Disgusted by the waste of what was at one time beautiful produce, we decided two things on the spot: To buy only what we will use within two days, and to use up what we have before shopping for more.

What a challenge. After cleaning out the crispers, we were left with 2 bunches of celery, 1 leek and 5 large red beets. A package of confit of duck legs had been thawed, I had made creme fraiche before leaving for Ashland, and an onion and beautiful garlic were at hand. The freezer offered up toasted hazelnuts and the garden, some lovely tarragon.

Cream of celery soup with fresh tarragon and a swirl of creme fraiche. Roasted beets topped with slivers of duck confit, chopped hazelnuts and a balsamic vinaigrette. Want the recipes? Here's the soup. The post for the beet and duck confit salad is here.

Cream of Celery Soup with Fresh Tarragon
Christine's original recipe
(Delicious served hot or cold)
2 bunches celery, strings removed with a vegetable peeler, coarsely sliced crosswise
1 large sweet onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 leek, green top and root end removed, cleaned and sliced crosswise
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Earth Balance or butter
1/2 cup sweet vermouth
3 3/4 cups low sodium chicken stock or broth
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped (or more if you prefer)
1/2 cup organic half and half
creme fraiche for garnish (optional)
chopped celery leaves for garnish (optional)

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the chopped onion and sauté until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped celery, garlic and leek and continue to sauté until the veggies have softened, about another 5 minutes. Do not allow them to brown as this will discolor the finished dish. You will finish cooking them in the stock or broth.
Have a soup pot standing by on another burner.
When the veggies are nicely softened, pour them into the soup pot.
Deglaze the sauté skillet with the 1/2 cup of vermouth and pour that over the veggies.
Turn the burner under the veggies to medium and add the chicken stock.
Simmer this until all the vegetbles are quite soft but still hold their shape, about 10 minutes.
Add the tarragon, give the pot a stir and simmer another minute.
Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, pouring each batch of puréed soup into a clean pot.
Now is the time to check and adjust for seasoning. Use kosher salt and freshly ground pepper if you wish, but I didn't need to.
Place the pot of soup on top of a heat spreader over very low heat and stir in the half and half.
Heat just to serving temperature.

To serve:
Ladle into individual bowls, plop a small dollop of creme fraiche in the middle and top with chopped celery fronds or small bits of chopped, fresh tarragon.

Cook's Notes:
It's very important to remove the strings from the backs of the celery. A vegetable peeler makes the task easy.
For a velvety smooth soup and elegant presentation, you could strain the pureed soup through a fine mesh strainer before adding the half and half. I myself like it rustic.
This was delicious the next morning cold from the fridge and would make a perfect dinner starter on a hot day.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Monday, August 6, 2007

Ashland Yard Sale Find

Found in the midsts of rather ho hum garage sale stuff, I had to be told the purpose of this rather esoteric (to me) kitchen gadget. Do you know what it is? I'll give you a fittingly mysterious hint: some Daring Bakers may know.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved