Sunday, October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween from Splendid Market....

I love decorating for Halloween, but it is mostly for the family and few friends who happen to come by. We live on a very quiet, dark, short street, which most trick-or-treaters don't bother to venture down, even though I've tried to tempt them over years with beckoning orange candles in the graveyard {at night},


full sized candy bars and mini bottles of after dinner drinks and buggy~bling for the grown~ups.

Cheerful ghosts adorn the front of the house, and the wreath sets the tone for what to expect when they step into the courtyard.

As they enter, our would~be visitors would be greeted with plenty of eerie sounds, a row of mini flashing lights at their feet, bats flying overhead and birds perched on branches and stems, as they made their way to the front door.

Most of the plants have died down, but there are colorful pumpkins and pansies in the garden beds, candles will be set out tonight as well.

Grasses in tin pots bring some height and a hint of a cornfield.

Indoors, there is a sweet sampler I found at a antique shop years ago.

Mini white and tiger striped pumpkins are on display, glittered body parts adorn the desks,

and tarantulas are crawling all over the place.

But, alas, few will see all of this, which I am sure is just fine with Arabella...visitors make her nervous.

 Happy Halloween, Splendid Readers, stop by for a nightcap if you dare!!

What is Halloween like at your place???

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Homemade cream cheese...

It's not that I don't like cream cheese from the store, it's just that it always seems to last so long in the refrigerator, and I wonder sometimes, what are all of those "gums" on the ingredients list..carob bean, xanthan and guar??  So, when I heard Lynn Rossetto Kasper on the Splendid Table {no relation} explaining the simple process for making Cream Cheese at home, I was intrigued. Her recipe is below, to see her complete post on cheese making 101, click on ricotta.

Following her simple steps, I ended up with about 6 cups of beautiful, fluffy, fresh cream cheese. This was thrilling enough, it tasted so creamy, and the texture was so delicate, but then I started realizing that this fresh cheese could be the foundation to achieving much higher levels of deliciousness.

Boursin cheese is sort of in the same category as cream cheese for me, I like it and I've noticed that most people love it, but as someone who takes pleasure in presenting home crafted foods, it always seemed a little too "packaged" for me to serve at home.

Lately, I've been smitten with a new blog {for me}, The Hampton Hostess. One of the great pleasures of writing a blog is that you have the chance connect with others from all over the world with whom you share tastes and views. I love her recipes, and really enjoy reading her travel journals and hearing about all of her retail discoveries in NY.

When I saw her recipe for homemade Boursin cheese I felt almost dumbstruck...why didn't I think of this???  Just reading it, I knew it would be delicious, and the process was so simple.

I blended up a batch, using herbs still alive in my garden {chives, oregano, parsley}, garlic, s&p and the homemade cream cheese... the finished product was amazingly delicious, herby, creamy and fresh. Even if you don't make your own cream cheese, you should try her recipe with store bought cream cheese, click here to view it. On top being a great, quick appetizer, this cheese is the star ingredient for a fantastic bowl of pasta. She published a wonderful recipe for making a quick al freddo-like pasta with spinach, but you could add any vegetables you fancy. I used tomatoes and ribbons of fresh basil leaves instead of spinach and it was delish!

I made the greenish skulls near the top of the post for a cocktail party last weekend. After lining the day~of~the~dead skull molds with olive oil and plastic wrap I filled them with the boursin cheese. I refrigerated them overnight, then inverted the ghoulish green skulls from their molds and poked some whole cloves in to emphasize their eye sockets. I love the little strips of chives on the one skull, sort of looks like band~aids, don't you think?

Another yummy use for homemade cream cheese is to dollop it upon fresh baked cinnamon rolls, letting it melt and drizzle down the sides. These Alton Brown overnight Cinnamon rolls have been making an appearance on many a Sunday morning at the Market lately. Imagine a batch of cinnamon rolls, fresh from the oven, topped with a fresh cream cheese frosting....truly transcending.

It's a bit of a process, but it's not too complicated.

The afternoon before serving, I mix up this yummy~yeasty dough, and let it rise {I start feeling like the mother~of~the year at this point}. After a fabulous dinner out, I revisit the dough {with a nightcap}, flattening it out and covering it with a layer of cinnamon~sugar goodness.

Then I roll up the dough....

and slice it, placing the rolls in a bake proof container. The rolls sit in the refrigerator overnight, waiting for the morning light.

In the morning, I take them out for another quick rise, then bake them off. The house fills with the intoxicating fragrance of fresh baked dough and cinnamon, and all feels right in the world.

While they are baking I whip up the cream cheese with some powdered sugar 

to top these golden, gooey delights!

Homemade Cream Cheese
2 quarts heavy cream
1 quart half and half
1 quart whole milk
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
Line a large colander with a layer of cheesecloth and place in the sink or over a bowl if you want to save the whey. Wet the cheesecloth to hold it firmly in place.
Over medium-high heat, bring the dairy products and salt to a gentle simmer in a heavy large pot. Stir in the lemon juice and continue to simmer gently until curds begin to form and float to the top, 1 to 2 minutes. They will first look like spatters of white, then gather into soft, cloud-like clumps. When you see the liquid begin to clear of cloudiness and the curds are firming up but not hard, scoop them out with a slotted spoon or sieve.
Let the curds drain thoroughly in the lined colander. If very soft, press gently to extract a little moisture, but take care not to dry out the cheese. Turn into a bowl, cover and chill.
Refrigerated cheeses keep for a week, but the ricotta is at its best eaten fresh.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween menu...

Beast Bourguignon tops off my favorite menu to serve for Halloween. I usually make this a day or two before serving to let the flavors blend. About an hour before serving, I heat up the stew and prep the vegetables. This stew can be left on the stove on low heat to take care of all of your trick or treaters as they come and go.

There are many great recipes for Beast (Beef) Bourguignon. We have found it hard to improve upon the recipe in The Silver Palate New Basics Cookbook, but we have simplified the original a little. We like to make the stew a day or two in advance and keep it refrigerated until almost ready to serve. 

Beast Bourguignon, adapted from The New Basics Cookbook

½ pound bacon, diced

3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large onion, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups of burgundy wine
3 cups beef stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1~1/2  inch julienne

1 bag of frozen white pearl onions, thawed

8 ounces fresh chanterelles or other wild mushrooms
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon red currant jelly
                    2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a  or ovenproof casserole or dutch oven
sauté the bacon until crisp.  Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings.  

sauté the beef in the bacon fat in small batches, until browned on all sides.  Return all of the beef to the pan and add the onions.  Sprinkle the beef and onion mixture with salt, pepper and the flour.  Stir to combine well and cook over high heat until the flour is no longer white or dry looking, about 5 minutes.

Add the wine, the beef stock, the tomato paste, the reserved bacon and rosemary. Loosen and bits of food from the bottom and sides of the pota and bring the mixture to A boil.  Cover and place in the oven to cook for two ~ three hours or until the meat is very tender.

At this stage, you could refrigerate the stew for a day or two until you are ready to serve it.

When ready to serve, heat the stew on the stove {if necessary}. To prepare the vegetables: Rinse the pearl onions in a colander.  

Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the cut carrots and parboil for about 7 minutes until crisp tender.  Add them to the colander with the onions and rinse with cool water.

Wipe the mushrooms clean, trim the stems and slice the caps.  In a small sauté pan, melt the butter and then sauté the mushrooms for about 8. 

add the onion, carrots, mushrooms and jelly to the pot.

Cook over medium heat for another 30 to 40 minutes to heat the vegetables through.

We serve it with Pappardelle egg noodles tossed in a little olive oil, and sprinkled with sea salt and chopped parsley.

The Luna Moth Wing Salad is simply butter lettuce leaves dressed with the Splendid Vinaigrette.

I hope you didn't miss the recipe for the Chocolate Covered Tarantulas, if you did, click here, everyone LOVES this one.

Booooone Appetite!

Monday, October 24, 2011

More pumpkinspiration...

Here are a few more autumn displays that caught my eye during our New England tour.

This pumpkin and simply tied bundle of grass were at the Outing Club {a residential hall for kids who are interested in outdoor activities} at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. I think the chipped paint on the stairs made a perfect backdrop.

Don't you love the crossed skis and framed art on the front of this gorgeous old house?

They were celebrating homecoming the day we visited the University of Vermont, the alums must have felt very welcome walking along this colorful path lined with pots of mums.

The each pot was for sale, with proceeds going to farm relief.

After many nights of motel living and college kid cuisine, I was so happy to settle into The Essex culinary resort and spa in Burlington, VT for a night. The food was amazing! We especially loved our Ceasar Salads, they grilled a quarter head of romaine lettuce over a fire before drizzling it with dressing for my son's salad, it added such a nice smoky flavor. I ordered a Ceasar that was served with a bone, sliced in half so I could enjoy the marrow. Hmmmm...that is just morbid enough to serve for Halloween supper.

My son says his hamburger was the best he had ever had, I concur, the texture was light but substantial {does that make sense??}.

As you can see, they had some pumpkin loving on display. I thought this was a great idea, a variety of gourds, squash and pumpkins spilling out of an overturned pot, sort of a monstrous cornucopia.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

get your pumpkin on...

My son and I were both feeling like we were in an opening scene of a horror movie during the final miles of our drive to a small town in upstate New York. The sun had set and the wind was building, swirling a rush of bright colored leaves and dust around our car. With each turn suggested by the GPS the roads were getting smaller, darker, and rougher and we hadn't seen a house in a while....just one large, dark, crow~filled cornfield after another. 

When she said our destination was coming up on the right we strained our eyes to see any lights ahead. When we saw the Inn where we were staying, it looked pretty spooky in the dark, mostly because of the remote setting. If we had been in a horror movie, this would be the part where the audience would be whispering "don't go in". But the lights and the sign were a welcome sight after miles of darkness, so we overcame any hesitations, knocked on the door, and all was fine.

The next morning, we toured the town of Clinton, dressed and ready for fall, the blanket of leaves, courtesy of the wind storm, made the setting even more festive.

Pumpkins and pots of mums were the main elements of the decor. I'm not usually a big fan of mums, but I must say they brought a fantastic burst of color to all of the porches and walkways.

While cruising through town I just had to snap a few shots of some of the displays, I thought I'd share them with you for some pumpkinspiration.

I loved this cauldron filled with pumpkins and squash.

These black urns, simply topped with a little straw and two plump pumpkins were perfection {pots of orange mums were on the step in front of the urns}.

These festive folks put a little crown of leaves between their layers of Cinderella pumpkins. 

I had no idea they grew so much corn in upstate New York, no wonder corn stalks are so prominent in their harvest decor.

This lovely old home had it's spooky friends flying on their lovely covered porch {wouldn't it be a marvelous place to brave an autumn storm, sipping hot chocolate and brandy??}

I'd like to have elegant witch silhouette like this, especially with that sash of skulls..

Sadly, I cannot recommend the Inn where we stayed, the weekend keeper {not one of the owners} was far too unpleasant. I had tried to stay at the Artful Lodger, which is right in the town of Clinton, but they were full. I loved the look of the rooms on their website, they are furnished with classic Americana furniture, but with a bold twist of color. 

So, do you have any pumpkins out? Are you planning on decorating this weekend? We'd love to see photos!