Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Gorgonzola Pear Salad With Roasted Hazelnus

Gorgonzola dolce is a younger, milder and sweeter variety of the traditional aged Gorngonzola blue cheese produced in Italy.  It is aged for a shorter amount of time while the naturale is allowed to age for six months or more resulting in a strong sharp flavor and aroma.

It is an excellent cheese to serve as an appetizer, as a dessert cheese served with fruit, as a flavoring in salads and pasta dishes, or as stuffing for chicken, veal or tube pasta. This cheese may also be referred to by a brand name of Dolcelatte.

If you cannot find the dolce, substitute a Danish blue cheese such as Saga Bleu.

Serves 4


1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. mild honey, such as clover
2 medium firm-ripe red pears (preferably red Anjou), halved lengthwise and cored
Kosher salt
8 thin slices pancetta (about 2-1/2 oz.)
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. chopped, toasted hazelnuts
2 oz. Gorgonzola dolce (1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1-1/2 Tbs. Champagne vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 oz. mâche (about 4 cups)

Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F.

In a small bowl, mix the melted butter and 1 tsp. of the honey. Brush the mixture over the cut sides of the pears and season with salt. Arrange the pears cut sides up on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the upper rack until just tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange the pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the lower rack until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup of the hazelnuts, the Gorgonzola dolce, thyme, and the remaining 1 tsp. honey with the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the pears from the oven and divide the cheese filling evenly among the pear cavities. Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and bake on the upper rack until the cheese starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Turn the broiler on high and broil until the nuts brown slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool slightly.

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mustard, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Gradually whisk in the oil. Toss the mâche with just enough vinaigrette to lightly coat and divide among 4 plates. Top each salad with 2 pancetta rounds and 1 pear half. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
photo: Scott Phillips
From Fine Cooking 108 , pp. 63
October 28, 2010

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brasato Al Chianti...Beef Braised in Red Wine



This comes from La Cucina Italiana, one of my favorite cooking magazines and one which I recommend you subscribe too.  Perfect to make ahead as this tastes better a day or two afterwards.

Best served with polenta.



  • 1 (3- to 3½- pound) boneless beef chuck roast
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 4 juniper berries (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups red wine, preferably chianti
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 ounces guanciale or pancetta, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ cup water
  • 1½ tablespoons tomato paste, preferably double concentrated


Place meat, anise seeds, juniper berries and bay leaf in a large bowl; pour wine over the top. Marinate, refrigerated, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Remove meat from marinade; pat dry and season with salt and pepper. Dust with flour. Strain marinade into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve; discard solids.

Heat oil in a wide 4- to 5-quart pot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Brown meat on all sides, about 10 minutes total, reducing heat if necessary to prevent scorching. Transfer meat to a plate and drain excess oil from pot.

Return pot to medium-high heat. Add guanciale, onion, carrot and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add reserved marinade, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.

Stir in vegetable broth, water and tomato paste. Bring to a simmer, then return meat and any accumulated juices to pot. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until meat is very tender, about 3 hours.

Transfer meat to a cutting board, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes, then cut across the grain into
½-inch pieces.

Purée half of sauce, then return to pot. Return meat to sauce. Gently reheat before serving.

Note: Beef improves in flavor if made 3 days ahead. Cool completely in sauce, uncovered, then chill in sauce, covered. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 350° oven until hot, 25 to 30 minutes, then slice meat.

Recipe Adapted from La Cucina Italiana

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day...Warm Chocolate Molten Cake Jean Georges

 Jean Georges Vongerichten was the chef who "invented" the warm chocolate cake, and originally, it was a mistake. I first tasted it in France while on vacation with some dear friends at the Chateau d'Ige in Burgundy in the '90's. At the end of the meal, my girl friend and I very coyly declined dessert but my friend's husband ordered this chocolate cake. He graciously offered us a bite and what ensued after that was a big fork fight to the death.

Later, when I came home, I purchased brioche pans and made it for dessert every time I had a small dinner party. Everyone raved and thought I was a genious! It never let me down.

Make sure you use a premium chocolate brand. That is what this cake is all about. You can double or triple the recipe depending on the number of guests.

This desert became so popular in the 90's that we all got sick of seeing it on the menu.  I have not made it in years but it is perfect for Valentine's Day as it can be made ahead, refrigerated and baked at the last minute.  Trust me, you can't go wrong!

Check out the rest of the menu on Lindaraxa

Serves 4


1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more to butter the molds
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting

premium vanilla or coffee ice cream (optional)


1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, heat the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. While that's heating, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick

.2. Beat together the melted chocolate and butter; it should be quite warm. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined.

3. Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins. Tap out the excess flour, then butter and flour them again. Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat, for up to several hours; bring them back to room temperature before baking.)

4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the molds on a tray for 6 to 7 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides will be set.

5. Invert each mold onto a plate and let sit for about 10 seconds. Unmold by lifting up one corner of the mold; the cake will fall out onto the plate. Serve immediately. with or without ice cream 

Source: Adapted from "Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef" by Mark Bittman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten

Suzanne Lenzer picture NYT


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