CREAM CHEESE MINI-PANCAKES WITH SMOKED SALMON

Remember our Nobel Reception that happened a few months ago? I still have a few items from that event to share with you, as cooking goes by at a fast pace in the Bewitching Kitchen, but blogging takes a little longer. Good thing my readers seem to be quite patient…  Lucky blogger, yes I am.  These mini-pancakes were a big hit at the party. I’d say of all the things I prepared, they were the most involved, but quite a fun project to tackle.  I found the recipe during a session of Pinterest hopping on the week before our get-together, and the decision to make them happened in 3.8 seconds. A phrase that sums me up well: I am hip about time (be ready for a quiz).

MiniPancakes

CREAM CHEESE MINI-PANCAKES WITH SMOKED SALMON
(from Evil Shenanigans)

For the pancakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
1 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
8 ounces cold smoked salmon
Freshly chopped chives, for garnish

For the sour cream sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon horseradish
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and chives. In a small bowl cream together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Add the egg and whisk until completely incorporated.  Whisk in the milk.Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk until just incorporated and no large lumps remain.  Do not over-mix.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Spray lightly with non-stick spray then scoop the batter by the tablespoon into the pan.  Cook for one minute on the first side, flip, then cook for an additional thirty seconds, or until the cakes are golden brown and spring back when gently pressed in the center.  Remove to a plate to cool while you prepare the rest.

While the cakes cool prepare the sour cream sauce by adding the sour cream, horseradish and salt to a small bowl.  Whisk to combine then let stand ten minutes.

To prepare, spoon a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of the sauce onto the center of the cakes.  Top with a piece of the salmon.  Garnish with the chives.  These can be assembled up to one hour in advance.  Serve at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositepancakes

Comments: There’s something to be said about practicing recipes before a big event, however, it’s not always possible. Still, a recipe such as this makes me admire caterers, because small details are so important in that business. If I had to make these again, I would try to make each pancake a little smaller. They puffed up more than I expected, so in the end my appetizers were a tiny bit too big.  I was so involved in frying them that I did not realize the problem until it was time to assemble the sour cream topping and the salmon. So, if you make them for your next dinner or cocktail party, run a little test, fry different portions and settle on the amount that will be perfect for your topping. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to smoked salmon, but let’s face it: it’s a classic topping with the dill and all.  Capers would feel totally at home also…  just sayin’….

PancakesReady
You can make these pancakes ahead of time, and I am sure they freeze well too with all the cream cheese in the batter.  I think a salmon mousse would be superb topping these babies, with a sprinkle of fresh dill all over. Come to think of it, I’ve never made salmon mousse. Once, years and years ago, before my blogging life, I made a fish mousseline that shaved a few years off my life.  It was a recipe from a special cookbook I own, one written by Vincent Price. The recipes are amazing, but soooo involved and complicated. That fish mousse tasted wonderful but  hell will have to freeze over three times before I attempted it again.  These pancakes?  A walk at the beach by comparison… try them and you will not be disappointed!

And now it’s time for the quiz… do you know which movie the expression “I’m hip about time” comes from?  It’s as much of a classic as smoked salmon on a horseradish cream with dill and capers….

😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

TWO YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

THREE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

FIVE YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

SIX YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

PEA PANCAKES WITH HERBED YOGURT

This recipe was on a recent issue of Food and Wine magazine, and I could not wait to try it, because at our recent rehearsal dinner in Sedona we ordered a batch of pea pancakes as an appetizer course, and they were a big hit.  René Restaurant’s version was gluten-free, this one takes a small amount of all-purpose flour. A very elegant and tasty way to celebrate spring…

PeaPancakes1

PEA PANCAKES WITH HERBED YOGURT
(slightly adapted from Food and Wine magazine)

3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, plus sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons of finely chopped tarragon, plus sprigs for garnish
1/4 tsp dried mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 + 1/2 cups frozen peas (8 ounces), thawed, plus more for garnish
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
olive oil spray, for coating griddle

In a medium bowl, mix the 3/4 cup of yogurt with the chopped parsley, tarragon and mint and season with salt and black pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the herbed yogurt until chilled, at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, blanch the peas until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Drain well and let cool.

In a food processor, mix cooked peas with egg, egg  yolk, cream and 1/4 cup yogurt, and process until smooth. Add the flour, lemon zest, baking powder, cardamon, and cayenne pepper. Process a minute or so more, stopping to clean the sides of the bowl midway through.

Heat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle. Spray the surface with olive oil, and spoon 1-tablespoon mounds of batter into the skillet and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes longer, until lightly browned and cooked through. Transfer the pancakes to a platter and keep warm.  Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve the warm pancakes topped with the herbed yogurt and garnished with peas and herb sprigs.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Griddle-side
Comments:  This recipe was originally designed to make 18 tiny rounds, but  I made 6 medium-sized pancakes.  They were absolutely delicious, great texture, moist, tender, and with that perfectly bright taste of green peas.  The lemon zest, as usual, adds a lot of spark to the flavor.  I loved the herb yogurt, Phil preferred to enjoy his pancakes without adornment, or with a very light smear of butter.  For my taste, the tarragon in the yogurt made this dressing a perfect match to the peas.  Of course, if you are not too fond of tarragon, use another herb, I think fresh dill could be delicious too. I also enjoyed the contrast of the warm pancake with the cold dressing.

If you have a special dinner party coming up, think about these for your appetizer course. They would be amazing served just like small blinis, with some smoked salmon on top. They are very tasty at room temperature too, so play with different toppings and awe your guests!  Probably other types of flour could be used, like almond or coconut, turning these babies into gluten-free entities.

peas

 ONE YEAR AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

TWO YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

FOUR YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

SMOKED SALMON APPETIZER

If you want to serve an elegant appetizer for your next dinner party, but would rather pick something simple to prepare, this recipe is just what you are looking for. All you need is a couple of endives, some smoked salmon (get the best quality you can afford),  and a little Boursin cheese thinned with creme fraiche.

IMG_4132

ENDIVE WITH SMOKED SALMON AND CREAM CHEESE
(inspired by Gluten Free Blondie)

1 or 2 endives (see comments)
Boursin cheese, room temperature
creme fraiche to taste (you can also use sour cream or yogurt)
smoked salmon, very thinly sliced
ground black pepper
fresh dill leaves, minced
.
Cut about 1/2 inch off the bottom of an endive spear. Start pulling off individual leaves. As you uncover leaves that are still attached at the base, cut another 1/2 inch off the bottom. Continue separating the endive leaves until you get to leaves that are too small.  One endive will give you about 12 leaves large enough to serve in this type of appetizer.

In a small bowl, mix the Boursin cheese with enough creme fraiche to give it a nice spreading consistency. Arrange the endive on a platter. Spread each leaf with about 1 teaspoon of the Boursin mixture. Top with a sliver of smoked salmon. Sprinkle all of the salmon and cheese topped endive with freshly ground, coarse black pepper, and a little dill.

Refrigerate until serving.
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  We loved this appetizer, it is luscious enough with the creamy cheese, but the use of endive instead of a cracker gives it a much lighter feel. Next time I will go one step further and add a couple of capers to each of the servings.  Two endives were butchered to get  enough leaves for the platter you see in the photo.   You might do a lot better than me, but just in case, save yourself some trouble and bring an extra endive home.  I made it 2 hours before serving and the leaves retained their texture reasonably well.  I would not make it more than 3 hours before serving.

I hope that next time you have a dinner party on the horizon, you’ll consider this recipe.
So simple to put together, but it will impress your guests for sure.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Clementine Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

THREE YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

FOUR YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

 

 

 

 

SOPHIE GRIGSON’s PARMESAN CAKE

This year’s Super Bow was low-key for us.  We’ve been hard at work, so what we wanted on that quiet Sunday was to recharge our batteries and reload for  another busy week.  Since it was just the two of us, we kept it simple:  Phil made his killer guacamole, and I prepared a recipe from my newest acquisition, the mammoth  “Essential New York Times Cookbook.”   The way it’s going, our pickup truck may not hold all our belongings (cookbooks!) on the trip home.  I’ve bought more cooking literature than I can possibly use here, and this one will add considerable weight to our load!    😉

This savory cake resembles corn bread in its looks and texture, smells terrific while baking, and does not disappoint in taste either warm or at room temperature.  We had a couple of slices on Sunday, and enjoyed the rest for lunch in the Gonda-McDonald courtyard at UCLA, on the sunny patio outside our building.  In the 75 degree sun it was hard to believe that the rest of the country was battling snowstorms…

Is it Summer yet?

SOPHIE GRIGSON’S PARMESAN CAKE
(from The Essential New York Times Cookbook)

1 cup flour
1+1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 oz parmiggiano cheese, finely grated
1/4 cup semolina flour
freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
3/4 cup whole milk

Heat the oven to 375 F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and reserve.  Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, then add the grated cheese, semolina flour, and black pepper to your taste.   Mix well to combine.

Make a well in the center, pour the butter, egg yolks, and milk, and mix until thoroughly combined. Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff, then fold delicately into the cheese mixture.  Spoon everything in the prepared pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and the surface feels firm to the touch.  Serve warm or cold, cut in wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  One word about the New York Times book:  awesome!  I have no idea how anyone could gather the energy and commitment to create such a masterpiece, but I’m sure glad that Amanda Hesser did it.   I haven’t yet finished  browsing its 932 pages, but I already have a long list of things to make.

Hesser suggests serving this cake in small wedges for cocktail parties with a glass of red wine, or with soup or salad for a light meal.   A hot bowl of tomato bisque (with a touch of basil, of course) is another great match. My only problem with the recipe was the name:  ‘parmesan’ suggests the use of cheap versions of this excellent cheese, with which I strongly disagree.  Instead, buy the best parmiggiano reggiano available, because that’s a taste that you’ll remember.

ONE YEAR AGO: Antibiotics and Food (something I’m very concerned about)

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GOUGERES

Cover of "Around My French Table: More Th...

Cover via Amazon

The classic amuse-bouche from Burgundy, gougeres, is not very complicated, and even better,  it can be prepared in advance and frozen. When it’s time to entertain just heat the oven and bake them straight from the freezer. This recipe from Dorie Greenspan‘s  masterpiece, “Around my French Table,”  brings fond memories of Paris with every  page. Her love for French food and culture  echoes my own feelings.



GOUGERES

(adapted from Around my French Table)

1/4 cup water (2 oz)
1/4 cup whole milk (2 oz)
1/2 stick butter (4 T / 2 oz)
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup all purpose flour (2.2 oz)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (3 ounces)

Heat the oven to 425 F.

Place the water, milk, butter, salt and pepper to a boil in a heavy saucepan. When boiling and the butter is fully dissolved, add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon until the whole mass is homogeneous. Keep over medium heat, stirring often, until you notice a light coating forming on the pan as you move the dough around.

Remove from heat, transfer the dough to a bowl and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Have a hand held mixer ready, and add the first egg to the dough, beating well. Once the egg is incorporated, add the second egg and continue beating until a very smooth dough forms. Add the grated cheese and mix well. Drop tablespoons on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a silicone mat), and bake for 12 minutes, reducing the oven temperature to 375 F as soon as you place them in. After 12 minutes, switch the tray position in case of uneven browning, and bake for 12 to 15 minutes more, until they are well puffed and golden brown. Serve immediately.

(makes 18 gougeres)

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The original recipe makes a double batch, with 3 eggs. When I halved the recipe, I tried to use two and a half eggs (admittedly, it is tricky), but the consistency of the dough was too soft.  Instead, 2 large eggs will be perfect, so that’s how I wrote it down.  Since my dough wasn’t dense enough I used a mini-muffin tin and placed 1 tablespoon of dough in each spot. It worked great: the gougeres baked as nice, well formed balls, airy inside and gooey with melted cheese. Pure heaven!

Because I’m cooking in a  small kitchen, I made them early in the morning, froze and baked them right before our Christmas dinner. That’s definitely the way I’ll make them in the future.

Around my French Table goes on my list of all-time favorite cookbooks! Not only do the recipes fit our cooking style, but her presentation, with comments and stories about her time in France, makes this book ultra special. If you’re on the fence about buying it, jump over to the sunny side and GET IT right away!  You won’t  be disappointed.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpernickel Bread

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INTO THE LIGHT

Thanksgiving officially marks the beginning of gastronomic over-indulgence. With the end of the year approaching, the celebrations start: departmental parties, lab parties, neighborhood parties, family get-togethers… every one of them loaded with caloric temptations…    This Thanksgiving we took a back seat in the kitchen, as we were guests at a fantastic dinner thrown by our dear friends (and neighbors).   Our hostess, knowing how much I love to cook, asked if I’d prepare  an appetizer for the Thanksgiving party, a question that I answered with the most enthusiastic yes!   I opted for something light and refreshing, to provide a counterpoint to the substantial meal ahead, that included a turkey with chestnut dressing that we won’t soon forget!

MEDITERRANEAN SKEWERS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

50 skewers
mozzarella mini-balls (like these)
3 mini-cucumbers
30 grape or cherry tomatoes
30 black Kalamata olives, pitted

for the dressing:
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground fennel
salt and pepper to taste

When you are ready to start prepping your ingredients, put some music on and go to work: slice the mini-cucumbers 1/8 inch thick, cut the tomatoes and black olives in half.  If some olives are too small, leave them whole. Reserve.

Assemble each skewer starting with one small mozzarella ball, half a black olive, another mozzarella ball, a cucumber slice, and finish with half the tomato.  Arrange the skewers on a nice serving platter.

Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients in a small bowl, drizzle over the skewers half an hour before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  The inspiration for this recipe came from two different sources:  “Greek Salad Skewers” from Fine Cooking, and a dressing found in “Small Bites,” but  I modified them enough to make it “bewitching.”  😉  One of my changes was to use mozzarella instead of feta cheese because feta tends to crumble and I am forced to eat all the cheese that disintegrates as I stab it.  If you don’t find mini-cucumbers, use regular ones, but peel them and cut the slices in halves or quarters, depending on the size.

Fennel seed is the secret for the dressing.  I like to use ground and let the dressing sit for a while before using, but next time I’ll use whole fennel seeds and warm them up gently to make an infused oil. Might be even better.

These skewers are very colorful, a nice addition to any cocktail party, but particularly great to open a multi-course dinner. Consider making them for your end-of-the-year festivities.

ONE YEAR AGO: Dundee Cake Bake-Along (and great fun was had by all!)

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TWICE-BAKED GOAT CHEESE SOUFFLE

If you’re intimidated by the prospect of making a souffle, then this recipe is a special gift for you.  This double-baking method (oven time separated by hours,  if convenient) is great for entertaining: no more guessing about when’s the correct time to put the souffle in the oven;  no more anticipating when the guests will be ready to eat the puffed-up, gorgeous masterpiece.    Plus, I’ve always felt that  individual servings (in this case individual souffles) makes each guest feel special. 😉 The recipe comes from Secrets of Success, one of my favorite cookbooks.

TWICE-BAKED GOAT CHEESE SOUFFLE
(from Michael Bauer’s Secrets of Success, original recipe from Barbara Mulas & Mark Drazek)

butter for greasing ramekins, plus 3 Tbs
1 cup bread crumbs
3 Tbs cake flour
1 cup milk, warmed slightly in a microwave
10 ounces goat cheese, divided
3 large egg yolks
salt and pepper
1 cup egg whites (about 7 large eggs)

Heat the oven to 425F.

Butter 8 ramekins (5 ounce size), and coat them with bread crumbs. Reserve remaining bread crumbs.

Melt the butter in a saute pan, add the flour and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds. Whisk in the milk, cook stirring until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Crumble 8 ounces of the goat cheese in a large bowl (you will have 2 ounces left), add the hot milk/flour mixture, stir to combine. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mix well, and season with salt and pepper.

Beat the egg whites by hand or with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Delicately mix half the egg whites into the cheese mixture to lighten it a little. Then, fold the rest of the egg whites. Fill the ramekins halfway with the mixture, crumble a little goat cheese on top, and fill the ramekins to the top with the remainder of the souffle mixture. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs.

Place the ramekins in a large baking dish, and fill it halfway up the sides of the ramekins with very hot (or boiling) water. Bake on the center of the oven until golden, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it sit in the water for about 15 minutes, then carefully unmold them, by running a knife around the edges and inverting the ramekins over a plate. Transfer them to a baking dish. They can be held at room temperature for up to 6 hours.

When you are ready to serve them, bake at 425F until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

ENJOY!


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: I’ve used this recipe many times in the past few years, sometimes with feta cheese instead of goat cheese, but always with the same delicious outcome. It is important to coat the ramekins well with butter, so that they easily un-mold.   One or two of pieces of bruschetta on the side  completes the perfect opening for a special dinner.

The recipe comes from Zax, a now (unfortunately) defunct restaurant in Berkeley.   You can find old reviews online praising this dish, and once you try it, you’ll praise it too!

Note to self:  try this method with other flavors.   According to Bauer, the key to making a twice-baked souffle is the use of cake flour:   it gives the final product a more refined texture.

ONE YEAR AGO: Hearts of Palm Pie

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