Happy Birthday…Well not to me.

This past weekend we had celebrated my father’s birthday. Traditionally, as it is his favorite type of cake, he always wants a cheesecake for his birthday. I obliged and went along to make a nice Italian style cheesecake which is a bit different than the more traditional New-York style cheesecake typically seen.

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As the above photo shows, this was done in a 9 inch spring-form pan. For the bottom crust all that was needed was almond slivers or slices, graham crackers (I used the cinnamon ones), some unsalted butter, and my optional unsweetened cocoa powder. They are all blended together (I used my magic bullet) until fine ground and slightly moist. It was then spread over the bottom of the pan and baked in the oven for 15 minutes at 350.

Now for the filling, it was 16 ounces, cream cheese, 16 ounces mascarpone cheese, 1 cup sugar (I used fine grain), some lemon juice, some cinnamon, and I flavored it with a white port which was infused with chocolate.

After the crust was baked on its own, I let it cool and then poured in the above mentioned mixture after I mixed it until smooth. The spring-form pan was placed in a turkey roaster which was then filled with water up to about 3/4 up the side of the cake pan. This was then places in the oven at 325 for just over an hour.

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Upon completion of cooking, I let it sit on the counter for one hour to cool and then put into the refrigerator to settle (at least 8 hours). After that period, I then made a light cream with mascarpone and whipping cream for the outer edge and then used a rubber spatula to place almond slices along the sides.

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For the top, I had taken pecans and roasted them in some oil and spices in the oven for about 20 minutes, let them cool, and ground them a little in my magic bullet. I also proceeded to make a caramel sauce which was just a little bit of water, sugar (used both regular and brown), some heavy cream and some vanilla extract to flavor. I spread a little bit of this over the top (allowed for a surface for the pecans to stick too) and used the excess to drizzle over the individual slices.

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Enjoy.

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Braised veal shank…with some homemade pasta (of course)

I always like to try cooking a variety of different foods and sometime it involves getting to play with some new toys. In this particular case, I had recently purchased a hand-crank pasta maker. For my first attempt at it, I had made a dough that incorporated the flavors of lemon and pepper into it so I could make a nice light oil sauce to go with and use as a side dish.

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Upon completion of making the pasta and knowing that it was something that would be on today’s menu, I had to come up with the main course to accompany this side dish. Since I already had to pick up some other items at the grocery store I had initially pulled a beef shank off of the shelf and felt it would be the perfect meal. However, walking around the corner to the next case (main butcher’s case) the veal shanks just stood out and I knew that’s what would be on the menu.

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For this meal I decided to braise the shank in a wine based liquid which I had chopped up and sauteed onion, carrot, celery, scallion, and had also added a few spices. For the red wine I had used a syrah-zinfandel blend. After initial sauteing of the vegetables (about 10 minutes), I then added the wine and brought to a slow boil. In the mean time I had pan seared all sides of the shank (which I had coated with salt and pepper). I then added the shank into the pot with the wine mixture and lowered the temperature just below boiling. I then covered the pot and let sit for two hours.

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With about 15-20 minutes left on the shank, in a sauce pot, I removed some of the wine solution from the large pot and then also added some corn syrup and some dijon mustard and put on low heat to mix the solution until it became thicker like a glaze. This was then poured over the shank after it was put onto the plate. For the pasta, after cooking, all it needed was a little but of truffle-infused oil to go along with the lemon-pepper flavor.

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Enjoy.

 

Apricot-Citrus Tilapia with Butternut Squash

I’m a day behind on posting this one (There will actually be two posts tonight) so I had tried something a bit different than what I normally would do.

For the Tilapia itself, I started off by brushing on a little corn syrup and then coated the fish with a romano/parmesan blend. I already had a skillet set up with hot oil so I just tossed the fillets on and cooked on both sides until slightly crisp.

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For the sauce, I wanted something that was both fruity/citrusy and a little spice. For the base I used a little bit of apricot preserves (under normal conditions when they are more in season I would prefer to use fresh apricots). I then added some chili powder, and both lemon and lime juice and simmered on low heat until it got a little thicker. This was then applied to the fish after it had been cooked.

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For the squash I had initially cut it up into strips. They were then places in a pan with oil and some white wine. I then added some seasonings and some salt/pepper and initially covered on low heat to steam the squash to soften it up. After a few minutes I then removed the cover and when the squash got softer I mashed it up. Quick, simple, tasty.

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Enjoy.

Well…It’s a cannoli kind of night

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So lately I’ve been experimenting more on the pastry side (never really did much desserts ever and it seems like a nice time to broaden and expand my skills).

Not gonna go into the details of the recipe, just that for the shells, its like any other dough you have some flour, then I also used cocoa powder, cinnamon, some lemon juice and peel, butter, and a dry white wine (I’ve seen some recipes that call for more of a marsala wine but I go with what I have and prefer). Also had some egg white in there and then it all gets mixed together into a ball then refrigerated.

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For the filling I used fresh ricotta (don’t skimp and get the pre-containered stuff, the fresh $$ type is worth the investment. Also used some orange liquor and orange peel, small chocolate chips, egg white, and fine grain sugar. All gets mixed together and then put into the refrigerator.

I used a deep stock pot, used 1.5 quarts of canola oil. Brought up to temperature to fry the shells (which I did by hand…not recommended , I’ll be investing in metal cannoli tubes at some point). They then get fried for about 2-3 minutes in the oil. They then get cooled and filled with the cream.

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Enjoy.

Wasabi-Almond Flounder

As the blog gets larger and larger, it will become more and more apparent that I am big into fish, seafood…anything that comes from the sea. In this particular instance, I wanted to make something bold and flavorful and show that anyone can make a very good meal without having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

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White fish such as flounder are nice to utilize as the lighter flavors are easily manipulated in a variety of ways and the creativity can flow. For this meal, I decided to make encrusted flounder with a almond-wasabi base.

The flounder filets I initially coated with flour then beat one egg and coated them with that. For the crust, you can use normal almonds ground up, but since I had almond slices for a baking project, I just took them and ground them up into small pieces. I then added some wasabi powder (can be found in the Asian section at the grocery store) and a pinch of corn starch so when it gets fried in the oil it forms a nice crust.

You can use regular oil to cook the fish in, however since I was going with an “Asian” theme, I decided to cook the flounder in a sesame oil. I heated the oil in a deep pan until it was hot then added the fish to the already hot oil. Then it just needs to cook for a few minutes on both sides until golden brown.

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As a sauce for the fish, it was rather simple- All I took was some light soy sauce, some ground up ginger, and a little bit of corn syrup to thicken it a little bit…This provided a nice contrast to the slight spiciness of the crust.

For the potatoes I went with a citrus-pepper seasoning which was just lemon peel, smoked salt, and chili powder along with some oil and for the asparagus I just pan-seared it until slight brown to give it a grilled flavor.

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In all, including prep time for making the crust, the meal took somewhere between 20-25 minutes to prepare and cook. Of course since it was a nice light wish I had a nice glass of a dry white wine to go along with.

Enjoy.

Tartufo…Now I understand why it’s an expensive dessert at restaurants

Since I had leftover stir-fry from yesterday, I was able to focus today’s project on dessert. I’m not sure how I came to the conclusion of trying this, but I had this odd craving for tartufo. I’ve had it a few different ways at different restaurants and figured how bad can this really be to do. Well, it was interesting to say the least and now I understand why A) not a lot of restaurants carry this and B) why the one’s that do charge what they do.

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In this particular instance I went with two types of ice cream- vanilla and pistachio. The idea seems simple enough, make semi-circular domes of one type, make an indentation in it, put in the filling (in my case I crushed up maraschino cherries) and then take the other ice cream type and fill out the rest of the dome. I used a nice sized ice cream scoop to make the domes, however the ice cream goes from fairly hard to quite soft in no time at all and when it gets too soft it sticks inside the scoop (I used a small teaspoon at times to pull the dome out of the scoop).

After this initial step, the domes are put on a cookie sheet that is greased up and placed in the freezer for two hours to harden up.

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Now for the chocolate dome part, it was fairly simple. I melted down two types of chocolate, one a bitter and one a sweet so it isn’t just a dark chocolate and has a little sweetness to it. I added a small titch of coconut oil to this and then separately I had boiled some heavy cream which then got added to and mixed with the chocolate. For some flavoring, some vanilla extract was used as well. This gets mixed until smooth and then is removed from the heat. This then sits on the counter for around a half hour to cool down (have to watch it because if it gets too cold and hardens then you can’t coat the domes).¬†Once the domes are coated thickly (do quickly and near the freezer so they do not melt), they are then placed back in the freezer for another 2+ hours.

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Near the end of the last hardening step, I then proceeded to make the berry sauce which was just mixed berries, a little bit of the chocolate to help thicken it and a little bit of blackberry port that I had. This was mixed under low heat then removed to cool a little and thicken. I then also put some fresh cream on the side with some crushed almond on it.

In all, a long process to create, tastes absolutely amazing, and now I have a better understanding of restaurant desserts when it comes to choices and pricing.

Enjoy.