Thursday, February 17, 2011

caramelized coconut budino recipe

I've been to Tuscany a million times and know those roads backwards and forwards. I love the place. I've been known to screech on the brakes for a special Montalcino tasting or a sign that says "hot schiacciata," a flatbread studded with Chianti grapes made during harvest.

I love the towns of
Strada, Radda, Greve and Castellina. I love the famous "Mall" where I buy Gucci, Pucci, Armani, Zegna (for Joe) and Sergio Rossi. I have fun visiting Beatrice at the Giovanni Cappelli Villa where she makes the most delicious lunches for me and my students. And I always top by to visit Romano and Cinzia, my friends at Rampini pottery and love eating picci, the equivalent of gummy bear pasta, in Pienza.

One of my favorite towns is
Panzano. Maybe because it's so small, manageable and I know everyone there. I used to visit my friend Giovanni who owned the restaurant Montagliari just below the village. I used to enjoy eating lunch with him. He's since passed away but the memories of him prevail dressed in his Hugo Boss shirts and dapper vest. We'd sit for hours talking and tasting the "balsamic" or salsa di mosto he made or his Grappa.

I'd visit my butcher pal, the now famous
Dario, and stop by and see custom shoemaker, Carlo Fagiani.

One time I stayed in a farmhouse in the middle of the vineyards just below Panzano owned by Tetta and her husband. What a cook! She loved sweets so much that every morning she'd make some kind of dessert for breakfast.
Not having such a sweet tooth myself, it was a challenge to wake up to a pie, cake or tart. That being said, one morning she made a caramelized coconut budino, or coconut flan, that was so out of this world I absolutely HAD to have the recipe.

I didn't even think I like coconut until that morning.
What so cool about this "breakfast dessert" is that this particular budino or custard separates miraculously into three distinct layers,- rich caramel on top, creamy custard in the middle and a coconut crust on the bottom.

Have you made a budino before? Easy and the flavor will transport you to Tetta's farmhouse in the middle of the vineyards in Panzano.


2 cups sugar
8 eggs
3 cups milk
2 1/2 cups finely grated coconut, toasted
3 tablespoons all purpose flour

In a large heavy stainless steel frying pan over medium heat, melt 1 cup sugar. Do not use a spoon, instead swirl the pan to melt the sugar uniformly. Cook until the sugar starts to turn golden brown or caramel color. Immediately remove from the heat and pour the mixture into a 8-inch cake pan, 2-inches deep. Turn the mold to coat the bottom and sides. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs together in a bowl. Add the remaining 1 cup sugar and milk, In a separate bowl, combine the coconut and flour and stir into the milk mixture until well mixed.

Preheat an oven to 375F. Pour the coconut mixture into the caramel-lined pan and place in a larger pan. Pour boiling water up one-inch along the sides and bake in the oven until set, about 55 to 65 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let sit 10 minutes. Invert the coconut budino onto a serving plate.

Serves 8

Monday, February 14, 2011

LE CREUSET French Oven Giveaway Winner

We have a winner! Paul Knipple from Memphis, Tennessee is the winner of the big bright red 4 1/2 qt. Le Creuset French Oven! Check out the Chocolate Almond Souffle I made for the love in my life! Thanks to everyone for participating! And happy Valentine's Day!

"the way to a man's heart" recipe

It didn’t take long before I knew that one of my (then-boyfriend, now-husband) Joe’s favorite foods was almonds. He ate them by the handful.

“I love almonds too” I said thinking simultaneously,-- another similarity we share. We’re destined to be, I thought.

“And what’s your favorite dessert?” I asked that first Valentine’s Day we were together.

“Almond and chocolate soufflé!” he said.

“Oh, great!” I said but I didn’t really mean it. I didn’t have a recipe for chocolate almond souffle. But hey, I’m a chef, I’ve written 17 cookbooks, I can write a recipe. And that’s what I did… After all, it was Valentine’s Day and you’re supposed to go all out for the one you love.

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day. I grew up with a tradition of celebrating it. My mother always gave me a little gift, whether it was little candy hearts with words like “kiss me,” “love me,” and “forever.” Or a pair of gloves or a potted plant of her mother’s ivy. Every year it was something just to let me know she loved me.

And with that in mind, I share my recipes for Chocolate Almond Soufflé!

Oh, I forgot to mention… He ate the whole soufflé!


3 tablespoons cocoa nibs
1 cup heavy cream
Sliced and toasted almonds, finely chopped
12 ounces excellent quality 70% chocolate, chopped
1 1/ 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/ 2 cup milk
5 egg yolks
1/ 4 teaspoon pure almond extract
6 egg whites, room temperature
1/ 2 cup granulated sugar
Confectioner’s sugar

Place the cocoa nibs and the heavy cream in a saucepan. Bring to a scald. Remove from the heat immediately and let sit 1 hour. Strain and place in the refrigerator.

Butter eight 5 to 6-ounce ramekins. Dust lightly with almonds. Set aside.

Place the chocolate, butter and milk in the top of a double boiler over boiling water. Whisk until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 minutes. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Add the almond extract and stir together.

Preheat an oven to 375 ̊ F. Place the egg whites in a large clean bowl and whip to soft peaks. Add the sugar gradually and beat until they are very stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins. This can be done several hours in advance.

When you are ready to serve, bake the soufflés in the oven until puffed and cracked on top, 14 to 17 minutes. While the soufflés are baking, whip the cream and confectioner’s sugar until soft peaks. Place in a bowl.

To serve, with a spoon, open the center of the soufflé and spoon the cream into the center.

Serves 8


Friday, February 11, 2011

roasted butternut squash and carrot soup with coriander oil recipe

How could this week fly by so quickly? Yesterday, I wrote to my TV producer and said I couldn’t meet today because I was “crazy busy.” He replied, “Crazy busy, that’s good!” Sure it’s good, if there were two of me. The week got away from me and I'm kicking myself. Last Sunday I promised you a recipe for the most delicious soup and I didn't deliver.

Just last weekend, I hosted a charity cooking class for the Napa High School Choir. The money raised went towards sending the choir to perform at Carnegie Hall. My good friend and wine pal, Tim McDonald, has a son who sings in the choir. I'm happy to say our donation raised the most money! New York, get ready!

The evening started with sausage crostini which has been my go-to starter for the last year. If you don’t have the recipe, it’s in my Wine Country Cookbook or on my website. The next course was a Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup with Coriander Oil and Crème Fraiche. The roasted carrots and butternut squash are so sweet juxtaposed against the spiciness of the cumin, coriander and cardamon. But what pulls the flavors together is the coriander oil that you drizzle onto the top. The oil is simple to make by toasting coriander seeds, crushing them and steeping them in virgin olive oil. There's a little crunch to the seeds that play against the creamy soup. We paired the soup with a Australian Robert Oatley Gewurztraminer that received 90 points from Wine Spectator. What a combo!

So many of you asked for the recipe and I promised it 5 days ago. That gets me all the way back to my “crazy busy” week. I’m happy to share the recipe. Please tell me what you think?

The dessert was an over-the-top winner. Stay tuned... You can hold me to this promise!

Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup with Coriander Oil

1 small butternut squash, about 2 pounds
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
3 cups water
3 cups chicken stock
1 3-inch piece orange peel, no white pith
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60ml) orange juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
¼ cup crème fraiche
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Halve the squash from top to bottom and place it, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet. Place the carrots around the squash. Toss to coat with olive oil. Bake until the squash can be easily skewered, 45 to 60 minutes. Cool for about 20 minutes. With a spoon, remove the seeds and discard. Scrape the pulp and reserve. Discard the skin.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, cumin, coriander and cardamom, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the squash, carrots, water, stock and orange peel and simmer until the squash falls apart and the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool for about 20 minutes. Remove the orange peel and discard.

In batches, puree the soup in a blender on high speed, 3 minutes per batch, until very smooth. mesh strainer into a clean soup pot and add the orange juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. If the soup is too thick, correct the consistency with additional water or stock.

Crush the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle, coffee grinder or a spice grinder until it is coarsely ground. If using a coffee grinder or spice grinder, pulse a few times only. Place the coriander and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Warm for 1 minute and remove from the heat. In a small bowl, stir together the crème fraiche, parsley and enough water to make a thick paste. Season with salt.

Ladle the hot soup into soup bowls. Drizzle the coriander oil and crème fraiche onto the top and serve.

Serves 6