Friday, April 20, 2007

Dare to Drool!

When I cook I am always about " a big bang for your buck!" If I put a lot of time and effort into a dish it has to be not just "good" , but AMAZING! If something is fairly easy but looks and or tastes like it was really hard all the better! This dessert definately falls into the "BIG BANG FOR YOUR BUCK" category!
Now I would not call it "easy" in fact this is the second time I made it and though it was much better this time than it was last time, I still have some tweaking to do. But it's not exactly hard either. The thing about it is, even in it's less than perfect state...its still pretty amazing! I am making this my official "go to" dessert for times when I am cooking to impress.

I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen which referenced another version on Simply Recipes and of course I did a little more research other places before I made it. One look at the beautiful picture on Smitten Kitchen's blog and I KNEW I had to make it.I mean what is not to like? They look just like clouds ...gotta be like Heaven! It is called Pavlova however I call it Pavlov know as in Pavlov's dog? I mean tell me you can look at this without your mouth watering!

Both times I have made it I have followed pretty closely Smitten Kitchen's recipe but they turned out VERY differently both times. I am not exactly sure why. The last time the Meringues got too much color , they were very chewy and never really got crunchy on the outside even after cooking them much longer than the recipe called for. This time the color turned out perfect,the inside was still soft but the outside was a little too crunchy and they tended to shatter when you tried to assemble them.I even baked them a little less time than the recipe called for. As I understand it they should be crunchy on the outside (but not shatter) and marshmellowy on the inside. I have a feeling that humidity plays a big part in these. I think I also am going to try just a tad lower temperature the next time (which will likely be soon).

So there are 3 layers to Pavlova.

Layer 1 the Meringue. I will let you look at the recipe here since it does officially belong to her. Besides she has a great blog and you should check it out anyway. She does WAY more baking than I do. I wish I dared to try her breads they look amazing

Layer 2 whipped cream. I am gonna be honest the first time I just used cool whip and it tasted just fine. The second time I actually made real whipped cream (1 cup cold heavy cream, 3 TBS sugar and 1 tsp. Vanilla extract) except I replaced the Vanilla extract with Grand Marnier and it was quite tasty. It's up to you if you want to beat the cream. You won't lose anything by taking a short cut here.

Layer 3 sauce I made a Tripple berry Sauce

Tripple Berry sauce

1 bag frozen raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1 pint fresh strawberries sliced

Thaw raspberries then puree in Food processor. Add 1/3 cup sugar. Bring raspberries and sugar to a boil simmer for about 2 minutes. Strain raspberries puree through a fine sieve. Mix in blueberries and strawberries. Chill until ready to serve.

The idividual componets can be made ahead of time but the Pavlova should be assembled immediately before serving. Place Meringue on plate. Place about a 1/3 cup whipped cream on top of Meringue and spoon berry sauce over top.

You can top this with anything you like. My son does not eat berries so I drizzled chocolate syrup over the top. Next time I make it I think I am going for a peach melba type flavor....mmmm doesn't that sound yummy! The best thing about this dessert is it very light and refreshing. Definitely good after a meal when you don't want a heavy dessert!
Note: Several recipes I read suggested Piping the Meringue from a pastry bag. I did this the first time (maybe that was the difference) and found it to be an incredible Pain and Mess! I was much more pleased with the more free form "clouds" I got from just spooning them on to the parchment paper.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Green is my Favorite color

I thought my basil obsession from last year had passed. Little did I know that planting 3 little plants could spark it again and low and behold all I can think about is BASIL. Unfortunately I am probably at least a month away from harvesting any. Let alone enough to make pesto, which is what I am craving. I have a little jar of store bought in my fridge but I wanted some pasta with pesto. But to buy enough basil to make pesto would cost a small fortune.
So, I decided to make spinach/basil pesto instead. Frozen spinach is much more economical especially since I wanted to make a big batch. Of course I researched the internet for traditional pesto and spinach pesto recipes. The ingredients for pesto are pretty standard so I decided to kind of wing it and here is what I came up with.

Creamy Spinach/Basil Pesto
16 oz package of Frozen spinach defrosted and sqeezed dry
1/4 cup losely packed fresh Basil leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 TBS pine nuts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 lemons (juice and zest)
4 cloves of garlic
2TBS olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chicken stock

Place basil in food processor and process till finely chopped. Add pine nuts and garlic and continue processing and add spinach , pepper, salt, lemon, juice and zest one at a time Stream in olive oil cream and chicken stock.

I continued to thin down the pesto with milk until I got it to a little creamier consistancy. Placed about a quarter cup over a bed of fetticuinni and toped with some left over chicken breast that cubed.
The garlic was quite strong so if you are not into strong garlic flavor or have a hot date you may want to cut back a bit on the garlic.