Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped CreamPod People
My sister invited my family over for dinner about a week ago for no real reason except to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t live within the walls of her home. We’ve done this a lot over the past few months. We are a pod.

Much like many people these days, coming up with something to make for dinner is a bit of a challenge. Even devout cooks like my sister and I are fairly tired of preparing three meals a day. Cooking fatigue is real, my friends. After some heavy thinking (and since it’s a family favorite) she decided to go with paella for dinner. I was put in charge of dessert.

You would think deciding on a dessert would be easy, you would be wrong. Because we were having Spanish cuisine, I wanted to make something chocolate-y because when I think of Spain I think of Spanish hot chocolate and churros. However, I had no desire to fry up churros. I also did not want to do the usual cake because I didn’t want to turn on the oven and make the house hotter. I wanted something different.

I came across this recipe for Panna Cotta and knew it would be the perfect choice. Panna Cotta is an Italian dessert of sweetened cream that uses gelatin for thickening so it can be molded. It is essentially a custard without the eggs. The recipe I found uses Nutella as the base—and you just can’t go wrong with the flavor of chocolate and hazelnuts. It was a hit all around and the perfect ending to a tasty meal.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to make this. The Panna Cotta needs as much time as you can give it to set. Topped with plain, sweetened whipped cream, this dessert is so good. Adding a little booze to your whipped cream takes it to an even higher level. I chose to use Frangelico to keep the flavors consistent, but Cointreau would also work well with the chocolate.

Nutella Panna Cotta with Frangelico Whipped Cream
Yields 6 servings
Adapted from NY Times Cooking
Read more…

French Onion Soup

French Onion SoupBon aperitif!
For the most part, I don’t use a lot of alcohol in the recipes I make. Except for wine. And beer. OK, maybe I just don’t use the hard stuff a lot with the exception of the occasional tequila lime shrimp (or chicken). All kidding aside, I do tend to leave alcohol out of certain recipes if I think they don’t really need it. For example, I leave the booze out of my tiramisu because I think the flavor competes too much with the coffee. Blasphemy, I know.

There are some recipes, though, where that alcohol flavor is a must. Beef and Guinness Stew is one. Coq au Vin is another. (I mean, it’s in the name. You can’t leave it out.) And, of course, desserts too numerous to count, that can either be lit on fire or not. (I see you Bananas Foster Bread Pudding).

Sometimes, you just gotta add a little pick-me-up to whatever your making. A splash of white wine in your Chicken Pot Pie gravy makes a world of difference without overpowering everything else. And having a little glass for yourself while you cook is a lovely reward for your hard work. I confess to having a bit more reward than usual lately. I have found it a little bit harder in recent days to leave the happy bubble that is my kitchen but, alas, we must soldier on.

If there is one recipe that requires the addition of alcohol to make it right, it is French Onion Soup. Not only do the flavors of wine and Cognac give the soup it’s distinctive flavor, it’s just so French.

With the weather actually feeling a bit fall-like this week, I am planning on making Julia Child’s version this weekend. It is quintessentially French and Julia would definitely be okay with a little wine for you as well as the soup…

French Onion Soup
Adapted from Julia Child and the Food Network
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Pine Nut Vinaigrette

Pine Nut VinaigretteGiving Thanks for Dad
If there is one thing I know it’s that my family isn’t normal. From the outside looking in, we may seem like your typical family of five. But, in reality, we are more than a few degrees off-center. The following is the most recent example.

Like most other families during the shelter-in-place order, we have been spending more time outside enjoying our backyard. The more we were out there the more it became obvious that our backyard space was in need of some serious help. So for the last month, that’s what we have been doing—little by little. It started with a fire pit that the family gave me as a birthday present. And, quickly turned into a much larger home improvement project culminating in the building of an outdoor bar.

The bar happened because we were sitting around the fire pit one night and I got thirsty. I mentioned that it would be cool to have a bar outside ‘cause I was feeling lazy and having to walk to the kitchen was just too far. This is where things got kinda nutty. Ideas and possible designs were thrown out for consideration. The kids were in on it, too. (I know. Great parenting. The kids are designing a bar. At least they learned some rough carpentry skills. That’s good, right?) Everything came together when I remembered the Mexican tiles and sink we had sitting in the garage.

Seventeen years ago I was pregnant with twins and my husband and I, knowing things were never going to be the same again, went on a vacation to Peurto Vallarta as the last hurrah before the boys showed up. While we were there we found a tile shop downtown that was filled with the most amazing Talavera tiles and sinks. I forced my husband to haul a sink and about 40 tiles home on the plane in a backpack with the idea that we would use them in the bathroom of our new house. That never happened. They sat in the garage until we moved into our current house ten years ago where they sat in the garage again until last month.

Long story (sort of) short, the tiles and sink are now part of a lovely and very sturdy (my love has a tendency to over-engineer) outdoor bar that looks like a Mexican cantina complete with a palm roof. The plan was to get it done by Father’s Day and we did. Naturally, I assumed we would be toasting Dad and breaking in the new bar with tacos and margaritas. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

When asked what he wanted to have for his Father’s Day feast my husband declared that he wanted his favorite dinner in the world, Thanksgiving. In June. In 90 degree heat. Do you know how hard it is to find Thanksgiving stuff in June? During a pandemic?

The turkey was the easiest part. I roasted two turkey breasts, mashed some potatoes, and baked the stuffing outside of the bird. We even had pecan pie thanks to my daughter. My sister, the smart one, was in charge of the green beans and made something that was more in line with the weather and the time of year. She got a bunch of green beans, steamed them, and dunked them in cold water to stop the cooking and keep them crunchy. She then dried them off and spread them on a platter, scattered some sliced cherry tomatoes around, and topped them off with a tasty Pine Nut Vinaigrette. It was the perfect way to cut all of the richness and carbs of Thanksgiving in June. In our Mexican cantina…

Pine Nut Vinaigrette
Adapted from Six Seasons: An New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden Read more…

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes

Amy’s Fat Pants PotatoesAny Way You Slice It
I have a number of kitchen tools that I just can’t live without. Some of them I use on a daily basis (like my mini prep) but other tools only come out occasionally. These tools are worthy of their spot in the cabinet because they make quick work of whatever I am doing. My tortilla press is one example. My mandolin is another.

If you do not own a mandolin, I would highly recommend you put it on your Christmas list. It doesn’t even need to be one of the super-expensive freestanding kind, though those are pretty nice. The only requirement is that it be sharp because to do what it needs to do, you gotta have a sharp blade. Just watch out for your fingers. It’s really easy to take off the tip of your finger. I speak from experience!

Don’t let the danger turn you away, though. A mandolin can be the key to crispy homemade potato chips or really fantastic gratin dishes like the one below that I like to call Fat Pants Potatoes. I only ever make these during the holidays because if you eat them more often than that you will have no choice but to wear pants with a little give in them.

If you don’t have a mandolin, never fear. A similar result can be found using a food processor with a slicing blade or by even, gasp! using a knife like most people.

Amy’s Fat Pants Potatoes
Adapted from Food 52 Genius Recipes
Yields 6 to 8 servings Read more…