Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sweet Victory

I think anyone that has a passion for cooking and all things food also has their own Achilles Heel. Mine, has always been pie pastry. That is not to say that I did not have success from time to time, but it was never something that I could hope for much less count on. I like having ‘home-runs’ in my cooking arsenal, so a wild card like pastry had no place. I guess many people would just opt to purchase prepared pie pastry and call it a day, but I like to know that what I make has mostly come from my own blood, sweat and swears. Shortcuts are nice, but I feel like a poser and just want to go take a shower. However, I just could not let it go…I was capable of so many things; I should be able to work this out. I sat down with Rose Levy Beranbaum’s, Pie and Pastry Bible to find enlightenment and perhaps some big pastry secret I had missed. Although it is one of the best reference cookbooks out there, I just wasn’t getting what I needed.

Then as I was checking out my friends' Facebook status updates, I saw that Garrett, a local food blogger, placed a post about a Potato and Onion Galette. Normally, I would have read through the post and admired his pastry (secretly hating his ability to do something I can’t) but he caught my attention when he explained that he had become quite skilled with pastry thanks to Elise Bauer, another local food blogger. He provided a link to her recipe (which I had the pleasure of tasting first-hand when she brought a pie to a party) and I followed it; WORD for WORD. And it work. And it worked again. And it continues to work EVERY TIME I prepare it. I have used it for sweet and savory; simple and complex. Finally, I have bested this beast and I am no longer apprehensive about having a pastry item in my cooking arsenal. One of my favorite things to prepare with my “oh so reliable pastry” is a Nutella Galette.

Nutella Galette

Preheat oven to 375

v One prepared pastry using Elise’s recipe

v 1/3 cup of Nutella Spread plus additional for drizzling


v Almond Extract

v ¼ cup of high quality bittersweet chocolate chunks

v ¼ cup of chopped toasted hazelnuts or almonds

Use an inverted sheet pan and cover with parchment paper.

Roll out to a 12 inch diameter, about 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface leaving a 1 ½-2 inch border. Place dough on parchment paper

Spread the 1/3 cup of Nutella and toss the chocolate chunks and hazelnuts/almonds over.

In a bowl, mix 3 TB of the additional Nutella and 2-3 TB of milk until you have a syrup consistency. Add 1-2 drops of the almond extract.

Drizzle over the Nutella, chocolate and nuts and then fold over the border slightly over the filling to create a crust.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Growing up, the news that stuffed bell peppers were for dinner was met with the same response held for liver and onions. Needless to say, not well received. Perhaps I would have been more receptive had my Aunt Virgie served said bell peppers with a Syrah or Pinot...but I digress. Along with less than youthful skin, age has brought with it some wisdom and a refined palate.

And as is often the case, meals are made to make use of items that are on their way out. I had purchased some beautiful bell peppers at the farmer's market but had yet to find a use for them. They seemed destined to be cooked. And then I thought of those once dreaded stuffed bell peppers and I was on my path. In keeping with my mantra to 'eat clean', I changed things up a bit; grass fed substainable beef and brown rice. I guess this is where that aged wisdom occasionally makes an appearance.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

4 bell peppers


4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 lb of lean grass-fed ground beef or buffalo

1 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice

1 cup chopped fresh plum tomatoes

4 tbsp chopped fresh italian parsley chopped

1 teaspoon of dried oregano or italian herb blend

1/4 cup fresh grated hard parmesan

Preheat oven to 375

Cut the top off of the bell and remove the stem and seeds. Chop any parts of the bell pepper cut to remove the top and stem. Boil the peppers completely immersed in salted water for 3-4 minutes to soften. Remove and set them upside down to drain and cool.

Place tomatoes, rice, parsley and oregano in a large bowl.

Heat 3 TB of the olive oil and cooked the onions and chopped bell peppers over medium heat, stirring often until they soften, 5-6 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add to the bowl with the tomato mixture and then add beef and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Mix with hands to ensure that everything is evenly dispersed.

Place peppers in a baking dish and fill with stuffing. Add 1/2 cup of water to baking dish and bake for 50-60 minutes until you reach an internal temperature of 155-160 F.

Prior to serving, I like to brush the top with a very fruity olive oil and finish with a fresh grate of parmesan. However, this step is optional.