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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mini Lemon Basil Polenta Cake with Limoncello Glaze

Chicago is an amazing city for free events, sure we have the highest taxes in the country but it's all the more reason to actually attend the free events and concerts. Many of these concerts are held at Millennium park, it's a cool steel stage setting with the gruff city as a backdrop. Add a few friends, a picnic basket of goodies and a couple bottles wine and it's a great night out in the city.

This month we enjoyed  the Lyric Opera and also the introduction of Munti, the long awaited conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. There is something iconic about watching an opera while sitting in a park with the grit of the city surrounding you.

We had less than hour for me to create a dessert for our picnic, so it had to be easy, portable, cook quickly and be made with ingredients I had on hand.  Probably not the best time to create a new recipe, but the use of polenta against the lemon and basil became reminiscent of listening to the opera in the middle of Chicago, delightful, packed with lemon omph and a slightly undertone of grit ...sort of like fat and happy. How fitting for the occasion.
Tips and Techniques:  I turned the cake out of the pan and used a small 1" round cutter to create the mini cakes. Take the scraps and make mini little parfaits for the next day. You can also leave the cake in the pan and just serve squares if you prefer. 

Mini Lemon Basil Pine Nut Polenta cake with Limoncello Glaze and Mascarpone Whipped Cream

 1/4 + 1 Tbls cup semolina flour
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 + 1 Tbls cup buttermilk
3 Tbls honey
3 Tbls melted butter
10 basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts

Mix dry ingredients with a fork, combine the wet ingredients (the egg, buttermilk and honey) in a separate bowl and add to the dry. Stir just to incorporate.  Fold in the basil leaves and the melted butter.

Pour the batter into a small greased or parchment paper lined 8x9" cake pan (these will only be about 1" tall); sprinkle the pine nuts on top. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until the middle is set and the edges begin to turn slightly golden brown.

Limoncello Glaze
4 tbls butter
1 lemon, juiced and zested
3/4 cup powder sugar
2 Tbls limoncello
4 basil leaves, whole

Mix the glaze while the cake is cooking. Melt the butter, whisk in the remaining ingredients. Set aside until the cake is removed from the oven, I like to keep this on the warm stove while the cake is cooking. Remove cake from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes.  If you are removing the cake from the pan, do so now.

Remove the basil leaves from the glaze and drizzle the entire lemon glaze over the cake.  Top each mini cake a dollop with Mascarpone whipped cream and serve immediately or at room temperature.

Mascarpone Whipped Cream

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 - 1/2 cup powder sugar (more for a stiffer, sweeter cream)
1 tsp vanilla

Whip all ingredients until soft peaks are formed.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cubanito Bowl

The crew at Gozamos is celebrating Latino heritage this month and that calls for a Latin recipe... my version, of course.  Let's take a look at the traditional Cubano Sandwich.  Any sandwich that can tout two layers of pork ranks high in my book. Add on the crispy pickle,a swipe of spicy mustard, the crunchy grilled bread and the melty cheese- oh man is this living.

As much as it pains me to admit this, I wanted to lighten  this dish up slightly. Substituting turkey for the shredded pork was step one, step two was to remove the heavy bread.  The result is a lighter, appetizer-esque version of the classic Cubano which I'm nicknaming the Cubanito Bowl. 

Tips and Techniques:  Make a larger bowl by overlapping a couple of the wonton wrappers in larger muffin tins.  Using pork will yield more flavor over turkey; the seasoning mix below is amazing on both.

Cubanito Bowl

Grilled Cuban Turkey (or Pork)

1 Tbls cumin seeds
2 Tbls peppercorns
1/2 Tbls coriander seeds
1 tbls sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 turkey loin, 1 lb

Toast the seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for just a few minutes, the pan will smoke. Grind all the seeds in a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder. Mix with the sugar and salt. 

Spread on turkey, cover and let it sit in fridge overnight. Remove from fridge 20 minutes prior to grilling to allow the meat to come to room temperature.  Grill until meat reaches 165 degrees on a meat thermometer.  If you don't have a grill or it's the middle of winter in the Midwest, sear the turkey on all sides and finish in the oven.

Remove from heat, rest 15 minutes and then shred with two forks.  You can do this step up to 2 days prior.

Pickle Slaw:
4 small cucumbers, grated and drained
1 carrot, shredded
1 cup red onion, sliced thin

1 Tbls champagne vinegar
2 tbls dijon mustard, black 1 tsp sugar
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh ground pepper
2 tbls fresh chopped parsley

Grate the cucumbers and set in a strainer for about 10 minutes, lightly salt (this will help draw out the juice).  Squeeze out any excess water.  Place in a bowl with the shredded carrot and the the thinly sliced onion. Add in the remaining ingredients and toss.

Mustard Yogurt

1 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
3 Tbls spicy mustard
black pepper

Combine the yogurt and mustard together, add a bit of pepper and  set aside.

Putting the Cubanito Bowl together:
Deli ham- 5 slices, chopped
1 cup of shredded jack cheese
1 package of wonton wrappers
2 tbls melted butter

Push one wonton wrapper into each cup of a muffin tin pan and brush lightly with the melted butter. Place in a 350 degree oven and toast until the wontons are lightly browned.

Add a few pinches of the shredded cheese into the toasted cups, top with the ham and some shredded turkey (stuff it full).  Place back in the oven for 2 - 5 minutes, just until the cheese melts. Remove from oven- serve immediately with the pickle slaw and mustard yogurt.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Almond Cookies with Vanilla Ice Cream and Sour Cherry Sauce

Dave is the most wonderful, attentive and honest partner I could ever ask for, and a true sport! He keeps me in line. When I first met Dave, he was a lover of frozen, microwavable hot pockets. As his palette has refined, I've been challenged to 'up' my cooking.

Forced to 'test' many recipes, I now count on Dave to suggest refinements to make my recipes better.  So now when he says "this is the best dessert you've ever made"- he means business.

Sour cherries are a bright. bright red color, not nearly as deep as the sweet Michigan cherry.  They are meant to be cooked rather than eaten straight.

There is something about the flavor combination of the sour cherries and the almond cookies with the hint of chocolate that just puts this over the top. While the cherry and chocolate combination seems like a given - I got lucky on this one. 

Make this for your loved one as soon as possible! He/she will completely owe you for this it. Fat and happy favors, oh yea.

Tips and techniques:  Sour cherry season is a short one in Chicago, just a few weeks in June. If there is one recipe you take away from this Fat and Happy blog- this is it!  Set your alarm for next June and count the days until they are in season again.

Almond Cookies with Vanilla Ice Cream and Sour Cherry Sauce

Almond Cookie
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter + 3 Tbls

1/2 tsp salt
2 vanilla beans
3 cups almonds
1/2 cup + 2 tbls flour
2 cups finely chopped

Mix all the above together, just until combined.  Roll the dough into a log, roughly 2 - 3" in width. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the fridge, slice into 1/2 inch slices.  Bake until lightly golden brown.  Can bake these cookies ahead of time and freeze until ready to use.

Sour Cherry Sauce

2 cups of pitted cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 lemon, juiced

Place all ingredients into a sauce pan, simmer until thick and combined. Strain through a sieve, using a spatula to push through all the sauce. Discard the remaining rinds.

Vanilla Ice Cream
2 1/2 cups cream
1 cup half and half
3 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean soaked in vodka for a day

Begin to warm the cream and half and half over medium heat.  Whip the yolks with the sugar until fluffy, pale and doubled in size.  Temper the eggs with the warm cream.  Now add the eggs into the cream pot, stirring with your whisk. 

Scrape the vanilla bean, add to the cream and eggs.  Use your whisk to help distribute the vanilla. Be sure to stir often with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-high heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon. (Run your finger on the back of a spoon, if it's thickened enough- you'll be able to draw a line through the custard.)

Remove from heat and cool in an ice bath, stirring often.  Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator overnight or for 24 hours.  This will produce a creamier ice cream.

Place in your ice cream maker and process according to manufacturers directions.  Home made ice cream does not last as long as the store-bought, preservative-laden kind; it's best to enjoy within a week.

Putting it all together
Chill plates ahead of time.  Melt chocolate pieces and brush a swipe of the melted chocolate onto the chilled plate.

Place one or two cookies on the plate.  Top with scoop of ice cream. Drizzle with the sour cherry sauce.
Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chickpea, Grape and Goat Cheese on Tomato Bruschetta

Do you ever get tired of the same old breakfast? Who wouldn't?  I eat a lot of eggs and today I'm bored of eggs.

Ok, it doesn't really look like a breakfast dish, but you don't have to follow me exactly.  You could have this for lunch, an appetizer or a side dish next to a roasted chicken

It's simple and yummy.  The sauteed grapes sweeten slightly as they simmer and pair so nicely with the goat cheese.  This dish reminds me of simple French fare, it's quite lovely. You know what would make it even better... a fried egg on top! Guess my fat and happy egg boredom didn't last long! 

Tips and techniques:  You can start with dried chickpeas or use canned for ease. If you go the dried route, you will need to cook the chickpeas prior to starting this recipe.

Chickpea, Grape and Goat Cheese on Tomato Bruschetta

3/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped celery 
8 oz chickpeas
2 large garlic cloves
olive oil
salt and pepper
10-15 red grapes, sliced in half
Goat Cheese
fresh rosemary, one sprig
3 tbls fresh parsley, chopped
Goat cheese, about 1/4 cup
1 ripe tomato, sliced 1/4" to 1/2" thick

Saute onions and celery in a few drizzles of olive oil until they begin to soften and the edges begin to brown.  Add in the garlic, chickpeas, grapes and half of the rosemary sprig (about 1 tbls), saute for a few minutes to warm the chickpeas and to allow the garlic to release its' flavor. The grapes will begin to release a little juice. Turn off the heat, add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Place one tomato slice on the plate, top with the chickpea mixture. Crumble a little goat cheese on top.  Drizzle with a good extra virgin olive oil and a twist of fresh ground black pepper. Serve while warm.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spicy Latin Guava and Mango Cocktails

Crazy drink concoctions are all the rage right now; bartenders are now Mixologist's and egg whites aren't just for breakfast anymore. While I do fancy complex drinks, there is something to be said for simple flavors.

We were enjoying a watermelon and tuna ceviche at National 27 the other day and one of the drinks we ordered was a spicy mango cocktail. It inspired us to make our own version at home using jalapeno and fresh ginger. Along with mango we experimented with guava juice, it turned out the spicy kick worked tremendously against the sweet, fragrant flavor of the guava.

Chop the ingredients, shake with juice and rum, line the glass with a spicy nutmeg and you've got a tasty, simple cocktail with a touch of heat. Sit back on the patio, watch the sun set and enjoy the flavors of fat and happy. 

Tips and Techniques:  If you really want to get rustic, peel and juice a mango or guava.  For ease, purchase mango and guava juice.

Spicy Latin Guava and Mango Cocktails

1 can of Guava juice, chilled
1 can of Mango juice, chilled
1 Jalapeno
1 finger of  fresh ginger
White Rum
Spicy Nutmeg mixture (see below)

For each cocktail - In a shaker, add 2 slices of fresh jalapeno, 1 tbls chopped ginger, 1 shot of rum and 1/2 cup of juice.  Shake well. Strain into a nutmeg rimmed glass.

Spicy Nutmeg Glass Rim
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
1/4 tsp ground  cinnamon
1 lime wedge

Mix all the ingredients on a flat plate. Wet the rim of the glass using a lime slice.  Dip the glass in the nutmeg mixture.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Espresso Kahlua Chocolate Truffles

Chocolate truffles are the most decedent, most satisfying chocolate luxury out there. Fudge has nothing on the truffle- it's too sugary. A brownie is too basic. A truffle is dense, rich and indulgent.  Take a ganache topping of chocolate and cream, blend it, add in flavored liquour and roll it in more chocolate. SICK! 

Today my truffle is made with chocolate, espresso and Kahlua.  Peanut butter and jelly have nothing on this flavor profile.

Truffles offer variety just by changing the liquour and the topping. Not only will your sweet tooth be satisfied, you can make endless varieties to your Fat and Happy, chocolatey, heart's content.

Tips and techniques:  Use good chocolate. Pick something like Valrhona or Scharffen Berger. It will make a difference. For variety, try a raspberry vodka, a Grand Marnier or a ruby port in place of the Kahlua. Then roll the truffle in powder sugar, toasted nuts, coconut or more melted chocolate!

Chocolate Truffles

9 oz good bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbls butter
2 tbls Kahlua
1/4 cup Cocoa powder
3 Tbls finely ground espresso beans

Chop the chocolate into small pieces, place in a heat proof bowl.  Heat the cream just below boiling.  Slowly add half of the cream into the chocolate; allow to sit for 2 minutes.  Stir to combine, stirring in the remaining cream.  Add in the butter and the Kahlua.

Place the mixture in the fridge to chill slightly. When mixture is cool enough to handle and form into a ball, use a small ice cream scoop and drop scoops of the chocolate onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Or use two spoons to form small balls of chocolate. Be careful not to make them too big- think of just a bite sized treat.

Place back in the fridge to re-chill slightly.  Place cocoa powder in a sifter, sift onto a plate. Sprinkle with the espresso grounds. Remove truffles from fridge and roll lightly using clean hands to help form the balls into a smoother presentation.  Roll the truffles in the cocoa powder to coat.  Set onto the parchment lined sheet, repeat until they are all covered in powder.  Store in the fridge for up to one week.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Creamy Lentil and Corn Bruschetta Fondue

Do lentils and corn belong in a fondue?  Does that even make sense?  I didn't know when I first started making this dish but there was only one way to find out.

The lentils come into play because I needed a protein and since my fridge was bare of tasty meat parts, lentils are a superb option. The protein in lentils digest easier than their animal equivalent and since red lentils break down faster, they are an ideal thickener in soups and purees.

The fondue can be a dipping fondue or a bruschetta topping- it's your choice. I seasoned and toasted day old bread for dipping in the fondue; crunchy and tasty.  Spooning  the bread on fresh pita worked almost better.

So do lentils belong in a fondue?  Hell yes. Just pair with a malty brown ale you've got a hearty lunch (remember the lentils are filling!).  Of course, this would be a great appetizer as well. And remember Fat and Happy doesn't always make sense.

Tips and techniques:  For a creamier fondue rather than a chunky fondue- use your immersion blender or pour the mixture into a blender.  Blend until desired creaminess is reached.

 Creamy Lentil and Corn Fondue / Bruschetta

1 cup red onion, small diced
1 cup celery, small diced
2 minced garlic cloves
1 cup red pepper, small diced
1/2 cup lentils
1 can of corn (8 oz), with juice
1 cup water
1 cup  wine
1 cup cream
1 cup shredded cheese (choose something that melts nicely)
handful parsley
1/2 lemon

Day old bread, cubed and toasted
Pita wedges

Saute the diced onion and celery in olive oil for a few minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper, continue to saute until the until begins to soften.  Add in the lentils, toss.  Allow the lentils to simmer for a few minutes and become toasted.

Add in the water and the wine. Simmer on medium until the red lentils are softened, 5-10 minutes.

In the meantime, toast the bread cubes by ossing the cubed day old bread with olive oil, pepper and seasoning salt.  Toast under the broiler, tossing often to allow all sides to brown.

Drizzle in the cream into the mixture, simmer on low until  it thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle the fondue with the cheese and the parsley, allow the cheese to melt.  Squeeze the lemon over the top.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Grilled, Caramelized Banana

I'm a believer that you can grill anything.  And we've all seen grilled desserts like pineapple and peaches so why not just plop a banana on the the hot iron?

You really could just plop that banana straight on the grill, in the peel, and let it do it's thing.  But if you take 5 more minutes you could have a caramelized banana- why not!

I do want to warn that after grilling, the banana becomes a mushy-like texture. I like it, but Dave didn't. It's just one of those texture things. 

This recipe is easy to travel.  Grab a couple of bananas, place the brown sugar, the butter and brandy in one little container together and you are good to go.  Fat and happy has never been so easy.

Tips and techniques:  This caramelized banana would be great topped with ice cream, strawberries, nuts and chocolate for a grilled banana split option.  Banana's are filling so 1 will easily feed 2 people.

Grilled Banana

1 banana
1 tbls brown sugar
1 tbls brandy
2 tsp butter
Greek yogurt or sour cream

Make a slice in the banana lengthwise across the top of the banana. Cut a few slits in the banana crosswise. Sprinkle the brown sugar directly onto the banana and drizzle the brandy in the slit. Chop the butter into little pieces and add inside the slit.

Place the banana directly on the grill. Grill for about 10 minutes or until the banana is softened and the sugar and brandy are bubbling.

Remove from the grill, top with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve while hot.


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