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A Word of Thanks

I would like thank everyone who, over the last four years, have read “The Ardent Cook”.  This will be my last blog for “The Ardent Cook”.

Last year, I started my second blog, “Pastries Like a Pro” focusing on my career as a baker and pastry chef.  This blog relates much of what I learned over my 28 years of professional baking, as well as what I am still learning.  In addition to  many of the recipes developed for the bakery and my clients, there is technical information and each blog features a great number of photos by my professional photographer husband that make success almost a sure thing.

I invite you to join me at www.pastrieslikeapro.com where you will find the latest techniques and recipes for the finest pastries.

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Chocolate Fresh Strawberry Pie

 food photoIf you love chocolate covered strawberries (and who doesn’t) this Chocolate Fresh Strawberry Pie is for you.  Gorgeous looking and delicious, it is a snap to make.

Any pie shell will do – homemade, frozen or roll out from the grocery store.  Any way, you can get a 9” baked pie shell if fine.   I don’t suggest a graham cracker shell as the flavor is too strong for this filling in this strawberry pie.

1 9” baked pie shell
1 Quart Fresh Strawberries

Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces semisweet chocolate (225 grams)
10 tablespoons butter (150 grams or 5 1/3 ounces)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2  teaspoon almond extract

Place all the ingredients in the top of a double boiler over simmering water.  Stir until melted.  Alternately, place all the ingredients in a microwave bowl and microwave on half power for about 3 minutes.  Stir until smooth.  It may need additional time depending upon the power of the microwave.

Assembly
Spread a thin layer of the chocolate on the bottom of the shell.  Refrigerate while preparing the strawberries.  Keep the remaining glaze at room temperature.

Cut the tops off the strawberries so they are flat.  If the strawberries are assorted sizes (as they usually are), cut the tops off deeper so they will all be about the same height in the shell.

Line the pie shell with the strawberries so they are touching.  Spoon the chocolate over the strawberries.  Refrigerate to set up.

Bring to room temperature to serve.  Store in the refrigerator.

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Oreo Tacos

tacos strawberries salsa oreo cookies oreo fruit dessert cookies chocolate  food photoThis delightful, whimsical dessert, Oreo Tacos comes to us season six Top Chef winner, Michael Voltagio of Ink Restaurant in L.A.  While I loved the “tacos”,  I added more excitement to the strawberry salsa.  This is really easy and such fun.

 

Oreo Tacos
36 oreo cookies (single stuffed)
1 cup all purpose flour (140 grams or 5 ounces)
1/4 cup powdered sugar (30 grams or 1 ounce)
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper to fit two large baking sheets.  I use half sheet pans that measure 13×18 inches.

Break up the cookies and place in the bowl of a processor.  Process until there are fine crumbs.  Add the flour and powdered sugar.  Process all together.  Lastly add the water and process until a ball of dough forms.

Remove the dough and divide it in half (2 balls 340 grams or 12 ounces each).  Place a ball of dough in the middle of a large sheet of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment on top and flatten the dough as much as possible.  Roll the dough between the parchment until paper thin.  Remove the top piece of parchment.

With a pizza cutter, cut large square.  Cut the squares on the diagonal, making triangles or “tacos”.

Repeat with the second piece of dough.

Bake 10 to 15 minutes until baked through.  They will be somewhat soft when coming from the oven but will crisp up as they cool.  Break apart along the lines.

Strawberry Salsa
2 cups strawberries, sliced
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all together.  Let sit for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Serve at room temperature.  Place a small bowl filled with the salsa in the middle of a plate.  Surround with the chips and dust lightly with powdered sugar.

tacos strawberries salsa oreo cookies oreo fruit dessert cookies chocolate  food photo

White Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

whole wheat flour white whole wheat flour snack muffins fruit muffins fruit easy brunch breakfast blueberries  food photoMy husband was recently diagnosed with diabetes and that called for a change in our diets.  Out went white bread, pasta and processed foods.  As a baker, I have always used white flour – bread, all purpose or cake flour.  So now what to do.

Whole wheat flour was the answer.  But the whole wheat flour that was available for years is a strong flavor with dark color and not one I wanted to use as my main flour.  For years items made with it were heavier than items made with all purpose flour.Digging a bit deeper, I found white whole wheat flour.  Because it does not have the red color genes, it is lighter in color and less astringent in taste.

King Arthur Flour states “This flour, America’s #1 white whole wheat flour, starts with lighter-colored, milder-flavored white wheat, rather than traditional red wheat. But don’t worry; it still has all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat. Substituting white whole wheat for all-purpose flour in recipes yields a treat that’s just as tasty as the original, with the benefits of increased fiber, vitamins, and minerals.”

I have tried it in waffles and pancakes, as well as these muffins.  My husband  loves the taste.  So if you are a baker like me, you might want to give white whole wheat flour a try.

When it comes to the blueberries, if you use frozen blueberries and stir them in at the very end, your batter will not turn that yucky bluish gray.  I also hold a few out so the last muffin, which often doesn’t have much in the way of the blueberries does.  These are among the lightest tastiest of muffins.

2 1/4 cups White Whole Wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour (285 grams or 10ounces)
1 cup packed brown sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (210 grams or 7 1/3 ounces)

Sanding or granulated sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line 16 to 17  regular muffin cups with liners.

Whisk all the dry ingredients together.  Make sure the brown sugar is fully incorporated with no lumps.

Combine the oil, buttermilk and vanilla.  Stir into the dry ingredients completely.  Stir in the blueberries.

Fill the paper lines almost full.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar if desired.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes.  Cool before removing from tins.

Yield:  16 to 17 regular size muffins

whole wheat flour white whole wheat flour snack muffins fruit muffins fruit easy brunch breakfast blueberries  food photo

Individual Turtle Brownie Gooey Butter Cakes

pastry Individual Gooey Butter Cake Individual Dessert Individual Brownie Gooey Butter Cake desserts Cupcake Chocolate Brownies chocolate caramel brownies  food photoThis year is the 250th anniversary of St. Louis.  Known as the gateway to the west long before the arch went up, St. Louis has served as one of the most important cities as America went from the east to the west.

While we boast several “food firsts”, Gooey Butter Cake is a St. Louis tradition that has spread nationwide.  The original gooey butter cake had a sweet yeast dough topped with a gooey butter filling that was sweet and yes, gooey.

The modern version features a packaged yellow cake base with a cream cheese gooey filling.  The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why it had to be a yellow cake.  As I wandered the aisle of the baking section, I spied a box of Betty Crocker Turtle Premium Brownie Mix.  How great would that be with a gooey butter filling?  So I grabbed that along with a package of cream cheese and off I went.  What evolved was a moist chocolate brownie with caramel oozing out under the gooey butter cake filling.

These couldn’t be easier for an out of this world St. Louis specialty that everyone is sure to love, Individual Turtle Brownie Gooey Cutter Cakes.

Brownies
1 package Betty Crocker Turtle Premium Brownie Mix
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 egg

Gooey Butter Filling
4 ounces cream cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Take the packet of caramel in the mix and submerge it in hot water (do not microwave it) while you make the rest of this.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 6 cup Texas muffin pan very well.  Be sure to spray the top edges of the individual cups really well also.

Place the cream cheese, egg, vanilla and powdered sugar in the bowl of a processor.  Process to combine completely.  If a processor isn’t available, place the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl and beat to combine.  Add the egg and vanilla.

Place the brownie mix, water, oil and 1 egg in a bowl.  Whisk to mix well.  Divide between the 6 cups – about a heaping 1/3 cup each.

Remove the packet of caramel from the water and dry it off.  Snip 1/4 inch off one corner.  Squeeze the caramel evenly into the center of each of the six cups.

Top each brownie with 1/4 cup of the gooey butter filling.

Bake for 30 to 32 minutes.  The gooey butter filling will still be soft and somewhat wiggly.  If you insert a cake tester to the bottom of the cup, it should be clean or have just a few crumbs on it when pulled out.

Cool to lukewarm.  Go around the edges and loosen each one of the desserts.  Carefully lift each one out.

These are best served slightly warmed.  If microwaving, do it briefly.These are great by themselves but can be served with vanilla ice cream if you want to gild the lily.

Yield:  6 Individual Turtle Brownie Gooey Butter Cakes.

pastry Individual Gooey Butter Cake Individual Dessert Individual Brownie Gooey Butter Cake desserts Cupcake Chocolate Brownies chocolate caramel brownies  food photo

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese (possibly the best version)

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Who doesn’t love the ultimate comfort food, macaroni and cheese.  How about Bacon Macaroni and Cheese?  What is more than ultimate?   It is actually really easy to make and the additions to it are endless.  The bacon is in the topping so  the bacon doesn’t get soggy in the sauce.  The smoky flavor of the bacon combines with the assorted cheeses really well. I have been frustrated in the past with homemade mac and cheese because it often curdles if heated too quickly or if it gets too hot.  There is a way to avoid this and it requires the use of a cheese not normally used in upscale cooking – velveeta cheese.  I actually looked at the labeling and found the first ingredient was milk so I was somewhat assuaged. Velveeta and cream cheese allow the mac and cheese to be heated and reheated without curdling.  After these two, additional cheese or cheeses are added as you wish.  Swiss, Pepperjack, Brie, Cheddar, bleu cheese – any of these add to the taste. The sauce is basic white sauce or béchamel.  Please see Bechamel Sauce for the how to photos of making the sauce.

If you’re skeptical,  remember Bacon Macaroni and Cheese  has the ultimate leveler - bacon  which trumps everything else!

8 ounces bacon
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1/3 cup finely grated sharp asiago cheese or parmesan cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons rendered bacon fat from cooking the bacon
8 ounces elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter (60 grams or 2 ounces)
1/4 cup flour (35 grams or 1 heavy ounce)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups whole or 2% milk
6 ounces velveeta, cut into small chunks (170 grams)
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into small chunks (85 grams)
5 ounces swiss or any other cheese desired, grated or finely cut (140 grams)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 2 quart casserole and set aside.

Finely cut bacon and sauté until crisp.  Drain on paper towels.  The easiest way to cut the bacon is to freeze it.  Cut across the strips and then cut those pieces into fourths.  This will yield small bits when fried. Combine the breadcrumbs and asiago cheese.  Mix in the cooked bacon.  Toss together.  Add 2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat and mix to coat the crumbs.  Add another tablespoon if necessary.  Set aside.

Cook the macaroni for 7 to 9 minutes in boiling water until just cooked.  Drain and rinse.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the flour, salt and peppers.  Whisk to combine.  Add the milk and whisk until it comes to a boil, making sure to whisk  into the edges of the pan.  Combine all of the cheeses and add to the milk mixture.  Stir until all the cheese is completely melted.  Add the cooked macaroni and stir to combine.   Pour into the prepared casserole and top with the bacon crumbs. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

Leftovers can be heated in the microwave or a 350 degree oven without curdling.

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Heavenly French Toast with Blueberry Compote

Sauce quick bread morning food Heaven on Seven fruit sauce fruit French toast cornbread brunch breakfast bread blueberry sauce blueberries  food photoWhen I was recently in Chicago, my family took me to Heaven on Seven for a holiday get together with some friends.  I’d heard about this restaurant for years – especially from my son Dirk – who loves it.  In fact, I was given their cookbook as a gift.   As we approached an office building, I thought perhaps we were making a quick stop, but as we entered the elevator I watched as the number seven was punched. As we exited the elevator, I still had no clue.  A few steps later, we entered Heaven on Seven and I was awestruck by the hundreds and hundreds of hot sauce bottles from ceiling to floor covering wall after wall.  There couldn’t be a better wall covering for one of the countries premier Cajun restaurants

We were led to a long table that seated all 16 of us and we began looking at the menu.  So many choices, all with great promise.  Although it was to be brunch, gumbo was had by many.  I asked about the Bayou Blueberry Blast and after a quick explanation placed my order.  What could be better for brunch than their very special cornbread with blueberries, dipped in French Toast batter and deep fried.  Heaven on Seven www.heavenonseven.com indeed.

Continue reading Heavenly French Toast with Blueberry Compote

Sauce quick bread morning food Heaven on Seven fruit sauce fruit French toast cornbread brunch breakfast bread blueberry sauce blueberries  food photo

Apricot Glazed Goat Cheese Appetizer

 food photoI found this in a magazine while I waited for my hair to be cut.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember which one, but I am grateful to them.  I made a few changes, but it is so good.  I find pure goat cheese astringent, so I cut it with cream cheese which still gives me that taste but not so in my face.

This is a really easy appetizer for the holidays coming up.

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (can be 1/3 less fat if desired)
6 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 1/2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

In the bowl of a mixer, beat the two cheeses together until smooth and creamy. Put is a small oven proof dish.

Stir all the remaining ingredients together and spread on top of the cheese.

Heat for 5 minutes.  Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes until the topping is lightly bubbling.

Serve with a lavosh, toasted pita bread or French bread toasts as below.

French Bread Toasts

1 loaf French Bread (I used Companion’s French Bread)
Melted butter, margarine, olive oil or a combination

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Slice the bread about 1/4 inch thick.  Place on trays and drizzle with the butter, margarine, olive oil or combination.  Toast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until very lightly browned.  Cool.

These can be made a week ahead and stored in an airtight container.

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Spicy Asian Pasta

spicy asian pasta healthy food free recipe easy cooking instructions asian pasta  food photoIt’s really hard to say anything about this Spicy Asian Pasta because my mouth is always so full when I make it.  The depth of flavor is fantastic and the ease of preparation is amazing.    This is perfect with a simple grilled salmon fillet or chicken breast.  Just don’t overcook the vegetables.

1/2 pound fettuccine
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 large red pepper
6 ounces snow peas
1/2 large red onion
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 ounces roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Salt as needed

Cook fettuccine 12 to 13 minutes, just until al dente.  In the meantime, whisk the sesame oil honey, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper together.  When the pasta is done, drain and toss with half the dressing.  Cover with film and set aside.

Cut the red peppers into 1/4 inch slices and then cross cut into 3rds.  Set aside.

De-string the snow peas and cut into 3rds on a diagonal and set aside.  Cut the red onions in quarter moons.

Heat the vegetable oil until very hot in a sauté pan.  Cook the peppers, snow peas and onions just until they begin to soften.  Do not overcook – these should stay crisp.

Toss the pasta, vegetables, peanuts, basil and the remainder of the dressing together.

Yield:  4 servings as a side dish

spicy asian pasta healthy food free recipe easy cooking instructions asian pasta  food photo

Skillet Turtle Brownies

turtle brownie turtle pecans chocolate caramel brownie  food photo

These Skillet Turtle Brownies are a fun way to make a decadent brownie.   I have to admit I did something I usually don’t do.  I was waiting for my hair to be cut and was thumbing through a magazine when I found these.  Yes, I tore out the recipe.  I know, I know, I hate it when people do it, but I knew these would be perfect for television.

They made caramel from scratch for their brownies but for TV there isn’t time so I took a short cut.  My caramel is made using purchased caramels melted with cream and butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet*.   After the caramel has been made in the skillet, a simple brownie batter is whisked together and poured over the caramel.

These brownies are great alone or perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  However you serve them warm them slightly in the microwave to soften the caramel if they are at room temperature.

Continue reading Skillet Turtle Brownies

turtle brownie turtle pecans chocolate caramel brownie  food photo

Seared Scallops with Peach Chutney

walnuts Scallops savory red pepper Peaches ginger entree chutney  food photoPeaches are one of the rewards for getting through a dreary winter.  I love everything about peaches- the looks, the taste, smell and color.  Peaches work in both sweet and savory dishes and this Peach Chutney proves my point.

For the easiest way to peel peaches and not lose any of the peach please see the video at the bottom of http://www.theardentcook.com/roasted-peaches-with-amaretti-crisp/

Dice the peppers and the peaches fairly fine.  I found the candied ginger at Trader Joe’s.

1/2 medium red pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon finely diced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cup peeled, diced peaches
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons diced candied ginger

8 to 12 sea scallops depending upon size
2 tablespoons oil

Add everything but the peaches, walnuts and candied ginger into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid to a syrup.

Remove from the heat and cool. Add the  peaches, walnuts and candied ginger.

Heat the oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold the scallops without them touching each other.  Heat the oil to very hot but not smoking.  Add the scallops and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, depending upon the size.  They are ready to be turned when the edge becomes opaque and they are firmer to the touch.  Do not overcook as they will become rubbery.

Serve the peach chutney with grilled pork or chicken as well as the scallops.

walnuts Scallops savory red pepper Peaches ginger entree chutney  food photo

Strawberry Bread

strawberry bread strawberry quick bread bread  food photoThere isn’t much I can say about a strawberry quick bread that requires a couple of bowls and a whisk. Oh, don’t forget the 9×5 loaf pan.

This is part of a post from my other blog, http://pastrieslikeapro.com/amazingquickbreads, which features a pumpkin, double apple and banana walnut quick bread in addition to the strawberry bread. Continue reading Strawberry Bread

strawberry bread strawberry quick bread bread  food photo

Red Beans and Rice Salad

Salad rice red beans and rice red beans Louisina entree salad creole  food photoOriginally, Red Beans and Rice was a traditional Monday meal in Louisiana Creole Cuisine. A slow cooking dish of beans, rice and often, but not always ham or sausage found its way to the dinner table after a day of scrubbing clothes on a washboard.

Now, some form of it can be found in many lucky southern cuisines.

With St. Louis summers topping out in the high ‘90’s (if we’re lucky and they are not higher), most of us do not look favorably on long, slow cooking.  But the flavors linger in a red beans and rice salad.  It’s easy to assemble and replicates the taste.

This salad should be made at least one day ahead to allow the flavors to meld. Continue reading Red Beans and Rice Salad

Salad rice red beans and rice red beans Louisina entree salad creole  food photo

Cold Poached Salmon, Cucumber Sauce and Roasted Asparagus Potato Salad

salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoCold Poached Salmon with Cucumber Sauce and Asparagus Potato Salad is one of the freshest tasting cold entrees to be had in the summer.  It almost makes you feel like a cool breeze is blowing on you.

It’s a simple dish to prepare and can be done ahead if desired.  If you poach the salmon ahead of time, wrap the salmon fillets tightly in plastic wrap so they don’t dry out.  The cucumber sauce can also be made ahead of time as long as you squeeze all the water from the cucumbers.

I use salmon fillets for this cold poached salmon  as salmon steaks, which are wonderful and often the first choice for this recipe by some, require removing pin bones, a task that is tedious.  If you buy your fillets and they have the skin on, remove it after poaching and cooling.  It will simply peel off.  Remove any of the brown fatty tissue under it.  

Roasted Asparagus Potato Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrette is a notable addition to any potato salad collection.  Crisp asparagus is the perfect foil for lemon and basil.  Potatoes are great anyway they’re made.

When cooking the potatoes, cover them with several inches of water, bring to a boil, reduce to a very low boil immediately and cook until they a tester goes in easily but they are not mushy.  If they are boiled too hard the skins split and they break apart.  Cool them and then cut.  New or “B” potatoes are simply little red potatoes.  They are not a different potato, they simply harvest them early.  I  like them when I am using an unpeeled potato as the skins are more tender.  However, regular  size red potatoes can be substituted.

Red potatoes are more waxy than white which makes them hold together after cooking better.  When cut, they stay together.  White potatoes are a fluffier potato when cooked or baked, think mashed potatoes, French fries and baked potatoes.  All of them require a fluffy baked or cooked finish product.

For roasting asparagus, I prefer the standard size.  See Asparagus.  The asparagus is coated with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.  It will maintain a bright green color and still have crunch, the perfect combination.  We used to make it this way at the shop and people would marvel at it.  Unfortunately half of them never believed this is all we did.  They were sure we had a secret we weren’t sharing.

The original recipe I developed for this used a Lemon Basil Mayonnaise which I absolutely love.  But because this is to accompany poached salmon which is dressed with a creamy sauce, I didn’t want two creamy sauces on the plate so I turned it into a vinaigrette.  Fresh basil and lemon rind are key to this dressing.

Lastly, be sure to serve this at room temperature for maximum enjoyment.

Court Bouillonsalmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
4 6 ounce salmon fillets

Combine all of the ingredients except the salmon fillets in a pan large enough to hold the fillets in a single layer. salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo Cover and simmer (do not boil) for 30 minutes.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

With a slotted spoon or a spider, remove the vegetables and herbs.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoIf the fillets have “tails”, tuck them under to make them as much the same size as possible.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoKeeping the court bouillon at a bare simmer, add the fillets.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoPoach the salmon for 8 to 10 minutes.  They should be opaque and the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

Remove from the liquid and cool with film on top to prevent drying out.  Wrap well with foil and refrigerate.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoThis may be done several days ahead if desired.

Cucumber Sauce
1 medium cucumber
1/ 2 cup sour cream (light is fine)
1 tablespoon  white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dill, dried
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Peel the cucumber. Cut it in half.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo Seed it by scraping out the seeds with a spoon, salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photopreferably a serrated spoon that is used for grapefruit.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoShred the cucumber on a box grater with the largest shredder.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

Place half the cucumbers in two paper towels or a tea towel and squeeze out all the water.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo
Repeat with the second half.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo Combine all the ingredients. salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoAdjust any of the seasonings if desired.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

Roasted Asparagus Potato Salad with Lemon Basil Vinaigrettesalmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo
2 1/2 pounds new red potatoes (can also be called “B” potatoes)
1 pound asparagus, standard size
2 tablespoons oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Set aside.

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with several inches of water. salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoBring the water to a low boil.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoCook the potatoes until just tender.  Do not boil hard and do not overcook.  Remove from the water and cool.  Cut into bite size pieces.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

Trim the bottoms of the asparagus. Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Pour the oil over the asparagus.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoMix to coat the spears with oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photoBake for 10 minutes.  Remove.  Cool.  Cut the asparagus into bite size pieces.salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
1 small clove garlic
1/4 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup vegetable oil

In the meantime, drop the garlic down the feedtube of a processor while it is running.  Scrape down to make sure it is finely minced.  Add the basil (make sure it is dry if it has been washed) and process to finely cut it.  Scrape the processor down and process several times to mince really finely.

Add all of the remaining ingredients except the vegetable oil.  Process briefly.  With the machine running, slowly pour the oil down the feedtube.  This can be made several days ahead and stored in the refrigerator.

Combine the potatoes and asparagus.  Add about half of the dressing, stirring carefully.  Add as much dressing as desired.  If making ahead, reserve some of the dressing for when you serve the salad.

This is best served at room temperature.

Yield:  6 servingssalmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

salmon potato salad poached lemon basil vinaigrette cucumbers cucumber sauce cold Asparagus  food photo

Pastries Like a Pro

www.pastrieslikeapro.com pastry/baking blog pastry baking  food photoI hope you will join me as I launch my newest blog, www.pastrieslikeapro.com.  This blog is completely devoted to pastries and baking both sweet and savory. It’s he culmination of 23 years of owning my bakery and my experience as the pastry chef at Tony’s, St. Louis’ most acclaimed restaurant.

In addition to recipes, I will be sharing my pastry and baking how to’s, tips as well as information on generally running the bakery.  All of the recipes  I use here  from the bakery have been reduced from multiples to single desserts and tested to make sure they come out as they should.

There are also new desserts and savory items that I have developed along the way.  My latest kick is tortes, thin layers of cake and fillings that are small in stature but bursting with flavor.  Follow along as we make a Lamington Torte based on one of Australia’s best know desserts.  The L’Opera Torte is a larger version of one of the best petit fours I have every eaten.

Pastries Like a Pro went live today with a showy Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Torte. I am not only proud, I am very excited.  I look forward to seeing you at www.pastrieslikeapro.com.

www.pastrieslikeapro.com pastry/baking blog pastry baking  food photo

www.pastrieslikeapro.com pastry/baking blog pastry baking  food photo

Some Exciting News

News Lightening Fast Brownies changes 27 Layer Tuille Torte  food photoI want to share  some exciting news with you.  You might have noticed there are some changes coming to this blog.  Well, I have been really busy getting my second blog, “Pastries Like a Pro” ready to go up shortly.  It will focus on my specialty, baking and pastry and I am really excited about it.  It is based on so much I learned when I had my bakery, Truffes, Inc.  Aside from sharing recipes, there is so much more, especially for those wanting to know the why’s and how’s of pastry and baking.  Really easy recipes like the Lightening Fast Brownies to as well as more sophisticated desserts like the 27 Layer Tuile Torte featured above.  By the end of the summer, we hope to have videos incorporated.

The Ardent Cook is not going away but will change to some degree.  The recipes I use twice a month on KMOV’s Great Day St. Louis, will be posted on the Tuesdays I appear.  The regular posting day will be changed from Thursday to Tuesdays.

If you are subscribed to The Ardent Cook or European Tarts, you will automatically receive notice that “Pastries Like a Pro” can be viewed.  I hope all of you will come along on my new venture.  I really think it is going to be exciting.

News Lightening Fast Brownies changes 27 Layer Tuille Torte  food photo

Stuffed Celery

stuffed clery stuffed southwestern salsa Greek cream cheese celery  food photoIf ever there was a retro appetizer, stuffed celery is it.  I have always loved celery, it’s crisp coolness is so refreshing.  At one point, it was even thought of as a negative calorie food – like anything is.  But it doesn’t have many and it is great for fiber. 

So a very long time ago, stuffed celery was on every appetizer tray.  You could hardly have a party without it!    But alas, its day passed and now you can scarcely find it.  One of the favorite stuffings in that long ago time was pimento cheese.   Maybe that attributed to its demise – what do you think?

So, in my culinary wisdom I decided it was time to bring it back with updated fillings – no pimento cheese. This is an easy, quick appetizer that is perfect for waiting around while the grillin’ gets done. You can stuff it with any of your favorite spreads or dips if they aren’t too loose.  The outer stalks of celery are usually the best as they have a wider channel to fill.  The inner stalks are often too tight and won’t hold much filling.

Just wash the celery, dry it and fill it.  There you go – instant appetizer!  I have given you two really easy fillings to get started.  While you might assume the Greek filling is the mildest, you are in for a surprise.  It is zingy and hot!  If you don’t want it so hot, cut back on the hot banana peppers.  The Southwestern filling is embarrassingly easy and you can make it hotter if desired by adding cayenne, chipotle or jalapeno.  A word of caution, don’t make both of the really hot.  Have one milder.

Either of these can be used for a dip.  Use pita chips with the Greek filling and tortilla chips for the Southwestern.  Now you don’t even have to fill the celery!  You want this easier?  The fillings should be made the day before to mellow.

Greek Filling
12 calamata olives
3 tablespoons finely diced green pepper
2 tablespoons hot banana  peppers (less if you don’t want it hot)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 ounces feta cheese
2 ounces cream cheese (1/3 less fat is fine)

I do not rinse the olives because I like the taste of the brine they are in.  Rinse or don’t.

Place the olives, green pepper, hot banana peppers and oregano in a processor bowl.  Process to mince finely.  Add the cheeses and process to mix.  Chill to firm.

Makes about 11/4 cup

Southwestern Filling
3 ounces hot pepperjack cheese
2/3 cup bottled salsa of your choice
6 ounces cream cheese (can be 1/3 less fat)
1 teaspoon cumin

Cut the cheese in chunks and add to the processor.  Process to grate.  Leave in the processor bowl.

Drain the salsa really well.  You want the solids mostly.  You should have 1/2 cup.

Place all the ingredients in the processor and process to smooth.  Chill.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Assembly

Large bunch of celery with outer stalks free of blemishes

Greek Filling

Southwestern Filling

Cut the stalks off the bunch and wash very well.  Dry.   If the filling is a bit chunky as is the Greek, I pipe with a plain tip.  If the filling is smoother, I use an open star tip.  If you don’t have piping tips, just cut the tip off a heavy freezer bag and use that.

 

Fill the bag and pipe the filling side to side to fill the cavities. Cut them into pieces about 3” pieces.  Fill  the second bag with the Southwestern Dip and repeat filling.  Arrange on a platter and enjoy.

These can be filled and chilled hours and hours before serving.

 

stuffed clery stuffed southwestern salsa Greek cream cheese celery  food photo

Beef Strogonoff in Roasted Portobello Mushrooms

sour cream risotto red pepper portobello mushrooms Onions Mushrooms lemon caramelized onions beef stroganoff beef  food photoOne of the jewels in the Russian culinary scene has to be Beef Strogonoff.  In this version of Beef Stogonoff in Roasted Portobello Mushrooms boasts the tenderest of beef, mushrooms and caramelized onions in a rich beef sauce touched with sour cream.  If you have followed my blog, you know that Beef Strogonoff in any form is one of my favorites.  See Beef Strogonoff Soup.  

We used to serve this at the take out shop and it was always a hit.  Instead of sautéing the mushrooms and adding it to the beef and onions, I roasted large portobello mushrooms and used them for the serving containers.  We used 5 to 6 inch portobellos, removed the gills and rubbed them with oil.  To see the technique for de-gilling the portobellos, see Portobello Mushrooms de-gilling.  After they were roasted, the beef mixture was piled on, then topped with a spoon of sour cream.  All the ingredients of this classic dish, just in another order.

I suggest serving it with the Red Pepper and Lemon Risotto and the BLT Salad with Mayfair Dressing for a truly memorable dinner.   The risotto can be made the day ahead and reheated, the Mayfair dressing should be done the day ahead to allow the flavors to meld.  The Beef Strogonoff in Roasted Portobellos is quick to make with  little prep time.  This is a menu made for a dinner party. Continue reading Beef Strogonoff in Roasted Portobello Mushrooms

sour cream risotto red pepper portobello mushrooms Onions Mushrooms lemon caramelized onions beef stroganoff beef  food photo

Who knew? Bomboloni Pizza, Beignets and Asiago Bread

savory doughnuts pizza bread bomboloni beignets asiago bread  food photoEvery so often there is a recipe I like so much I want to find new things to do with it.  So it is with the Savory Doughnut post.  Known as bomboloni in Italy, the dough for these treats can be savory or sweet.  It is one of the easiest yeast doughs I have ever put together, so one night when we had some of my taco meat left over, I thought about using it for a pizza.  The bombolini crust seemed like a natural for a deep dish type of crust. I wondered what else I could come up with and the beignets and asiago bread soon came to mind.

While the pizza and beignets each take one half a recipe of dough, the asiago bread uses the whole recipe.  The recipe can’t be scaled back any further but you can always freeze one half if you aren’t going to use it right away.

So call them savory doughnut  dough or bomboloni, this dough has just been turned into a pizza, beignets and bread.  Who knew?

Continue reading Who knew? Bomboloni Pizza, Beignets and Asiago Bread

savory doughnuts pizza bread bomboloni beignets asiago bread  food photo

Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast and Berries with Orange Cream Sauce

toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoWhat could be a better gift for Mom than Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast and Berries with Orange Cream Sauce served in bed?  Add a flower in a vase and coffee or tea, whichever is her favorite, and you have a memorable Mother’s Day. The Berries with Orange Cream Sauce was a post from 3 years ago that I updated for this special holiday.  It is easy enough that older children can make the day before if desired.  Just warm is slightly to bring it to room temperature before combining it with the fruit.    The Orange Cream Sauce is based upon the sauce I make for Crepes Suzette.

I actually thought of making the French toast with croissants but when I went shopping but then, I found this charming cinnamon bread and instantly changed my mind.  Lightly sweetened cream cheese  highlighted with a bit of orange zest to accentuate the sauce is an easy embellishment to plain French Toast.

To make the day perfect, don’t forget to clean the kitchen.  I can’t think of anything worse than having to clean up after such a wonderful treat.  Great job for the kids!

Berries with Orange Cream Sauce - please go to Berries with Orange Cream Sauce and combine 3/4 cup of each of the berries with the sauce.  Serve over the Stuffed Cinnamon French Toast.

Stuffed Cinnamon French Toasttoast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photo
6 ounces cream cheese (1/3 less fat is fine), room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
16 slices cinnamon bread
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk, whole or 2%
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter as needed

Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and orange zest. toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photo Mix completely. toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photo Spread evenly on 8 slices of cinnamon bread.  toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoTop with remaining 8 slices of bread.  Set aside.

Whisk the eggs until completely blended.  toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoAdd the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.  toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoDip each cinnamon bread sandwich into the mixture toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoon both sides toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoletting it sit in the egg mixture a couple of minutes on each side to soak in the liquid.  The time it sits in the mixture will depend upon how fast the bread soaks it up.  You don’t want the bread to disintegrate in the liquid.

Place a pat of butter into a non stick pan.  toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoHeat to melt but do not brown. toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoPlace sandwiches in the hot pan.  toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoSaute until golden; flip over toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photoand sauté the other side.

Serve with the Berries with Orange Cream Sauce.

Serves 4 with 2 sandwiches per order.

toast sandwich orange sauce fruit French toast  food photo

Pasta Salad with Artichokes, Red Peppers and Asiago Vinaigrette

Vinaigrette red peppers pasta salad pasta asiago artichokes  food photoWith graduations, picnics and holidays in the offing for spring and summer, this Pasta Salad with Artichokes, Red Peppers and  Asiago Vinaigrette is the perfect side salad.  It was one of the most popular side salads we offered at the retail shop.  Making this pasta salad even better is the simplicity of the ingredients and preparation as well as the intensity of the taste.  The dressing definitely has more than a hint of garlic, so if you are not a garlic fan reduce the amount.  I like garlic as a background taste in dishes but would never even consider the garlic festival!  However, I love this dressing – maybe because of the asiago cheese.

This recipe uses several convenience items to speed things up.  I don’t mind using prepared items (think mayo and mustard – would anyone make these anymore?) as long as they are quality and contribute to the recipe.  The artichokes used in this pasta salad are canned and quartered.  Artichoke hearts also come frozen but truth to tell I prefer the taste of the canned ones.  The frozen can be substituted if desired.  There are products used in the  restaurant industry that aren’t available to consumers.  One of them is diced red peppers.  If you can’t find these, use diced pimentos since they are simply diced red peppers without the glamour of saying red peppers.

Lastly, one other thing to recommend this pasta salad is it’s safety factor.  This pasta salad goes to picnics perfectly as it can sit out without fear of leaving it too long.

Other side salads you might also enjoy are, Greek Tomato Salad Capanota, and Mediterranean Orzo Salad.  So fire up the grill, invite the guests and enjoy a get together with the help of one of these salads.

Asiago Vinaigrette
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 3/4 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon (scant) red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated sharp asiago cheese

With the processor running, drop the garlic down the feed tube to mince. Mince well. Add the red wine vinegar, black pepper, cayenne pepper and salt to processor bowl. Pulse to mix. Combine the olive oil and vegetable oil. With the machine running, pour the oil slowly down the feed tube. Continue processing for about 10 seconds. Add the asiago and pulse several times to mix well. Remove from the bowl and set aside.

Alternately, chop the garlic finely continue as above but whisk instead of process.

Pasta Salad
1 zucchini
6 ounces canned diced red pepper or pimentos, well drained
1- 15 ounce can artichoke quarters, well drained
1 pound uncooked penne pasta

Julienne the zucchini. Place all but the pasta in a large bowl. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Drain well. Place the pasta in the bowl with the vegetables. Pour the dressing over and mix well. Cool to room temperature, stirring several times. Chill.

Serve chilled or room temperature.

Yield:  About 12 cups

Vinaigrette red peppers pasta salad pasta asiago artichokes  food photo

Kalua Pork Sliders

sliders sandwich pork pineapple chutney brioche bread  food photoSeveral years ago we went to went to the Epcot Wine and Food Expo.  I have to admit I came away with quite a few ideas, some of which I have already shared. The Kalua Pork Sliders were one we went back to several times.  Although inspired by this recipe, I have simplified it.  Pulled Pork on Brioche Rolls with Pineapple Chutney makes a perfect sandwich with the added bonus that everything can be done ahead of time.

We both use Brioche but mine  is a straight forward brioche.  The recipe here is from an article I wrote for Bon Appetit Magazine many years ago called, “Sixty Second Brioche”.  It was also included in my first book, “The New Pastry  Cook.”  It is one of the easiest breads you will ever make and I highlighted this version with sesame seeds. The finished dough is more of a batter and it has to be chilled overnight to make it workable because it is very soft and sticky and room temperature.  The brioche utilizes a sponge, which is a mini dough, to increase the amount of rising power used without increasing the dry yeast.  This step is used with yeast doughs that have a lot of fat (think eggs and butter) which slows down the yeasts ability to rise.  The butter must be very cold so it cuts into the flour without becoming a paste.   The rolls can be made ahead of time and frozen.

The Pineapple Chutney with ginger and red pepper accents the pulled pork perfectly.  The original Kalua Pork Sliders were served with a spicy mayonnaise.  I chose to omit that but if you prefer to use the mayonnaise go to,  Crispy Fried Onion Rings for the Chipotle Mayonnaise. If you wish to speed this up, you can certainly substitute half size dollar rolls.

Although these are made as the little sandwiches, sliders, they can certainly be made on regular size buns.

Continue reading Kalua Pork Sliders

sliders sandwich pork pineapple chutney brioche bread  food photo

Kentucky Bourbon, Chocolate and Pecan Pie

pie pecan Derby Pie chocolate chips bourbon  food photoThis Kentucky Bourbon, Chocolate and Pecan Pie is otherwise known as Derby Pie and it is served during Kentucky Derby time.  It seems that name is trademarked and the company who owns it aggressively goes after anyone who uses it.  So Kentucky Bourbon, Chocolate and Pecan Pie it is.

If you have never had this, run, do not walk, to buy the ingredients and start baking.  Not wanting to buy a entire fifth of bourbon or whiskey for this recipe, I found airline bottles pie pecan Derby Pie chocolate chips bourbon  food photoof several different liquors at my grocery store.  One is ideal for this recipe.  Actually, you can make 2 Kentucky Bourbon, Chocolate and Pecan Pies out of one bottle and that may be just fine with you.  I never knew chocolate and bourbon could go together so well.

The pie crust is my single American Pie Crust which I posted earlier.  It is a traditional flaky crust that is just perfect for this pie.  It needs to be pre-baked to insure that it bakes all the way through with the filling in it.  To keep the crust from shrinking, it is lined with foil and then weighted with dry beans.  I like to use lima beans because they are large and heavy.  You can use the beans over and over by cooling them completely and storing in a covered jar. pie pecan Derby Pie chocolate chips bourbon  food photo This is very much a southern pie and related to to its more famous cousin, the Pecan Pie. Continue reading Kentucky Bourbon, Chocolate and Pecan Pie

pie pecan Derby Pie chocolate chips bourbon  food photo

Orange Almond Teacake or Madelienes

teacake orange madelienes almond  food photoOrange Almond Teacake or Madelienes are a quick to make, very special treat that can be baked several ways.

Please go to http://www.flourmewithlove.com/2013/04/orange-almond-teacake-or-madelienes.html to view a guest post I did for Flour Me with Love.

teacake orange madelienes almond  food photo

Praline Caramels

praline pecans New Orleans candy  food photoThese praline caramels are one of those happy accidents that comes from just enough knowledge.  I had to make New Orleans pralines to smash up and top the Banana Caramel Tarts (go to www.europeantarts.com to see the tart).  I found a recipe for New Orleans Praline Pieces on www.epicurious.com that sounded like just what I needed.  I researched a couple more, added a few items to  the ingredient list and was all ready to go.  I had made pralines before and I remembered they always seemed grainy after they set up.  So, in an attempt to make them less grainy or not grainy at all, I decided to replace some of the sugar with clear corn syrup as it is an invert sugar and helps reduce crystallization in sugar.

So out comes the pot and in goes everything except the pecans.  The butter melts, a candy thermometer is clamped on and the bubbling mass cooks to a temperature of 236 degrees.  I removed it from the heat and cooled it to 220 as instructed.  Removing the thermometer, I then proceeded to stir like a mad woman,  added the pecans, stirred even faster and poured the mass into a prepared 9×9 pan to cool.  After hours and hours of cooling it looked like I was successful in making praline caramels with pecans in them.  Now I am in no way complaining – they are sensational!  But they never got hard like pralines nor became opaque like pralines.   Continue reading Praline Caramels

praline pecans New Orleans candy  food photo