Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cheese Souffle with Chives

The thought of making a souffle can send cooks into a bit of a tizzy. Before classes ended in June, I substitute taught a Home Ec class where the teacher asked me to demonstrate a Cheese Souffle. I've made souffles before, but wanted to make sure this particular recipe would turn out, so I made it at home the night before. Mmmm. Light and fluffy, with cheesy herby goodness! I ate the leftover one (deflated) for breakfast. It tasted just as good.

Basically a souffle is a thick white sauce enriched with egg yolks and seasoned with vegetables, cheese and/or herbs, to which stiffly beaten egg whites are folded in and the mixture is baked until golden and puffy. If you've never tried making a souffle you'll be surprised at how easy it really is. Infusing the milk with a bay leaf adds subtle flavor, but you can easily skip that step.
Cheese Souffle with Chives

1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
3 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs, separated
1 cup finely grated cheese, Gruyère is good, or Swiss, or Emmenthal
2 Tablespoons minced chives 
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 4 cup souffle dish or any straight-sided casserole dish. Alternately, use 8 -1/2 cup ramekins. Dust with flour or finely grated Parmesan cheese. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the bay leaf until scalded. Remove from heat, cover, and let infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard it.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking continually, for about 1 minute. Add the infused milk and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth and thickened. In a separate dish whisk the egg yolks until combined, then pour in a little of the sauce, whisking to combine. When about 1/3 of the sauce mixture is mixed into the egg yolks, return the yolks and sauce to the remaining sauce in the pan and whisk until thickened and bubbly. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be quite highly seasoned.

Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Stir in a spoonful of the whites into the sauce to lighten the mixture, then fold the mixture into the whites, until just a few white streaks remain. Fill the souffle mold or ramekins to just below the top. Run your finger around the inside edge to form a small trough. This will help the souffles rise evenly.

Place the dishes into a glass baking dish and pour boiling water around the ramekins or mold, to about two-thirds up the sides. Be careful to not spill any water into the souffles. Bake until puffed and golden. Individual souffles should take 18 - 25 minutes, a larger one 25 - 30 minutes.

Remove from the water and serve immediately.



Gougères, aka Cheese Puffs

Cream Puffs, filled with sweetened whipped cream and topped with chocolate, are delectable. A friend of mine makes the best ones and always has them in her freezer, ready to pull out at a moment's notice. But did you know that you can use the same dough - pâte à choux - to make savory puffs as well? Adding cheese and herbs to the dough gives the puffs new taste. They are delicious as appetizers, and can be frozen, then reheated in the oven before serving. I've used chives and oregano in this recipe, but other herbs could easily be substituted.

Gougères with Oregano, Chives and Swiss Cheese

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1 cup finely grated Swiss cheese (or substitute any flavor cheese)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano (2 teaspoons dried)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In medium saucepan, bring water and butter to the boil. Add salt and flour, all at once, stirring vigorously. The mixture will look lumpy at first, then smooth out to a doughy paste. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and herbs. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously (this takes some work) until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next one.

Drop by small spoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm. 

Makes about 3 dozen small puffs.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Raspberry Thyme Vinaigrette

Rather than use a raspberry vinegar for this salad dressing, whole berries are instead blended into the white wine vinegar mixture before adding the oil. The berries stay a bit chunky, adding texture to the dressing. A hint of honey and mustard deepen the flavors.

Raspberry Thyme Vinaigrette

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
16-20 raspberries, either fresh or frozen (thawed)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (or other mild vegetable oil)

Whisk together the white wine vinegar, honey, mustard, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Add the raspberries and mash them with a spoon to mix them into the mixture. With a whisk, add the oil gradually. The dressing will separate in the refrigerator, so be sure to shake well before serving.

Makes about 1 cup of dressing and will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.

Orange Thyme Shortbread

Shortbread is a classic favorite and so versatile. I like the combination of orange and thyme flavors in savory dishes, so I thought I'd try them together in a sweet. Buttery, crispy, slightly sweet, with a bit of citrus and a hint of thyme, these are wonderful cookies to accompany afternoon tea. Or morning coffee. 

 Orange Thyme Shortbread

1 cup of butter, room temperature
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

In a mixer or food processor, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the icing sugar and beat well. Add the orange zest, thyme leaves, flour and cornstarch until well incorporated. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in waxed paper and chill for about 20 minutes.

Roll dough, between parchment paper sheets, or on a floured surface, to 1/4 inch thick. Cut with a floured cutter and place on lined baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 18 minutes or until light golden brown. 

Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Makes about 36 2-1/2 inch cookies.

Note:  For a little more savoriness, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with fleur de sel or fine sea salt. I did that to a few of them, and they are definitely my favorites.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Caramelized Onion Tart

Purchased puff pastry and a half an hour or so of caramelizing onions makes this an easy appetizer to pull together. It can be done ahead and slightly reheated in the oven, but it takes just fine at room temperature, too. The ingredients are simple but the combination of crisp pastry, softly sweet onions and a hint of cheese and thyme is satisfying.

Caramelized Onion Tart

1 package puff pastry
4 large yellow onions, peeled, halved and cut into slices
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or Romano or Asiago)
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pastry (or cut the pre-rolled sheets) into two strips, each about 15 inches long and 5 inches wide. Place each strip onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Pre-bake the strips for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. The pastry will puff up dramatically, then fall.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and gently stir and cook them down. They shouldn't brown, but will slowly soften and caramelize. When they are completely softened and limp, sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spoon the onions onto the pastry - if it's still puffy, just poke it with a fork and pile on the onions. 

Sprinkle with the cheese and thyme leaves. Bake 10 minutes longer. Cut into crosswise pieces about 2 inches wide to serve. Let cool slightly before serving.

Layered Tomato Salad

Nothing says summer like fresh tomatoes and herbs. This recipe is so easy, and fast. It can be made for a few people or many. 

In a wide dish or rimmed plate, layer sliced tomatoes - red, yellow, orange, or whatever you can find. A few cherry or grape tomatoes halved and sprinkled on top would be good, too. Sprinkle with drained capers and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Dot softened goat cheese on top, and sprinkle all with torn fresh basil leaves.  

Some of our lactose intolerant friends just have problems with cow's milk cheeses. So goat's milk (chevre) or feta is an option, as is sheep's milk. If you look in your deli section, you'll find cheeses made from the milk of various animals.