Category Archives: Williams-Sonoma

Melon & Prosciutto Soup w/ Mascarpone

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Fridays, combined with hot summer evenings, make the prospect of cooking less than enticing.  My solution?  A dinner that requires minimal cooking and minimal effort.  This chilled soup, from Williams Sonoma’s Soup of the Day, fulfills both of these desires.  Ripe cantaloupe is sweet but the saltiness of the prosciutto and the creaminess of the mascarpone provide the perfect foil.  The soup tastes best cold but if you start with a chilled cantaloupe, you can have this chilled soup on the table in less than half an hour.  Serve it with a crisp white wine as is or alongside a salad or even a sandwich and you have the perfect end of the summer week meal.

MELON & PROSCIUTTO SOUP w/ MASCARPONE CHEESE

2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 ripe honeydew melon, chilled

2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1 lime, cut into wedges

  • Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan until shimmering.  Add the prosciutto and fry until crispy.  Drain and crumble.  Set aside until ready to use.
  • Remove the seeds from the honeydew.  Peel, slice, and cube the melon.
  • Place the melon in the bowl of a large food processor and pulse until smooth.
  • Add the vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Pulse again 3-4 times.
  • Place the soup in a large bowl and chill until ready to use.
  • Serve topped with mascarpone, prosciutto and a drizzle of lime juice.

Serves 4-6

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Lemon Zest Shortbread

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Buttery shortbread is one of my favorite cookies.  A good shortbread isn’t sweet; rather it is crisp and buttery with a just a hint of sweetness.  Plain shortbread is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea but adding flavors into the dough takes these cookies to a whole new level.  I love the addition of lemon zest to these cookies.  This recipe is courtesy of Williams-Sonoma and is surprisingly easy.  Once the butter is at room temperature the cookies can go from individual ingredients to baking in the oven in a matter of minutes.

LEMON ZEST SHORTBREAD

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons finely minced lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  • In a food processor, combine the flour, the 1/3 cup granulated sugar, the confectioners’ sugar, lemon zest and salt and process to blend.
  • Add the butter and process just until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and gather into a rough ball.
  • Pat the dough evenly into the bottom of a shortbread pan or an un-greased tart pan with a removable bottom.
  • Pierce the surface every two inches with a fork and sprinkle the surface with the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
  • Bake the shortbread until lightly golden at the edges and the center is firm to the touch, 45-50 minutes.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and let cook in the pan for 10 minutes.
  • Carefully removed the shortbread from the pan. Using a sharp knife, score the shortbread into wedges.
  • Let cool completely before and cutting and serving.
  • The cookies may be stored in layers separated by waxed paper in an air-tight container at room temperature for up  to 5 days.

Yields 12-16 cookies

Fresh Ricotta with Vanilla Infused Honey & Walnuts

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Recently I jumped on the “make it from scratch” bandwagon and started making my own ricotta cheese.  When I first set out to try making my first batch of homemade cheese I conjured up images of my own mother stirring vats of hot milk during her own cheese making phase.  I wasn’t sure I was up for the task but quickly found that by using a DIY kit from Williams Sonoma, the entire process was so simple it now feels foolish to buy the cheese in the store.  Since it is the main ingredient, it is important to use a good quality milk.  If you don’t like the taste of the milk when you drink it, you won’t like the way the your end product tastes. Here in Albania I like the whole organic milk from Natyral Farms but any non-ultra pasteurized milk will work.

Of course, once you have your own cheese you need to find ways to use it.  I’ve substituted ricotta in my traditional cheesecake, made ricotta pancakes, and even eaten it plain.  When I was looking for a more interesting use for the cheese, and a fancier presentation for an appetizer,  I found inspiration in The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher.  This book is filled with interesting and innovative recipes using all types of cheese and brings together flavor combinations I would not have otherwise considered.  (It also makes me a bit sad since so many of the wonderful cheeses mentioned in the book simply aren’t available here).  This combination of ricotta, honey, and walnuts makes for an attractive presentation whose flavor combinations take guests by surprise.  I served my cheese as a single dish on a buffet table but the cheese could easily be divided onto individual plates and served as a first course.

FRESH RICOTTA CHEESE (courtesy of Williams Sonoma)

1/2 cup cool, distilled water

1 teaspoon citric acid

1 gallon whole milk

1 teaspoon cheese salt, or to taste

Pour the water into a small bowl  and stir in the citric acid.

Pour the milk into a large pot, add the citric acid solution and cheese salt and stir well.

FRESH RICOTTA WITH VANILLA INFUSED HONEY & WALNUTS

1/2 cup honey

1 vanilla bean

3/4 cup whole toasted walnuts

2 cups fresh ricotta

  • Place the honey in a small saucepan.
  • Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the honey.  Stir to combine.
  • Heat the honey mixture of over medium-low heat until the mixture is syrupy.
  • Meanwhile, shape the ricotta onto a serving platter, or four individual plates, and shape into a small mound.
  • Immediately before serving add the walnuts to the honey mixture and gently stir to combine making sure the nuts are well coated.
  • Pour the honey nut mixture over the ricotta and serve immediately.

Tiramisu

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Tiramisu is the all time favorite dessert in our house.  Glenn and I discovered our mutual love of this Italian dessert early in our relationship over a late night dinner at Filomena Ristorante in Georgetown, Washington D.C.  Since that snowy January night, if tiramisu is on the menu, we order it.  Tiramisu was the dessert at our rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding (it would have been our wedding cake if I could have figured out how it could have been made in a tiered form), it is the cake I make for Glenn’s birthday every year, and it is becoming a favorite dessert for our formal dinners.

I’ve discovered that not all tiramisu is created equal. Cake that is too dry or filling that is too sweet yields  disappointing results.  This recipe comes from Williams Sonoma and in my opinion is the perfect combination of moist, yet not too wet, lady fingers and rich and delicately sweet filling.  Always make it a  day ahead of time. This lets the flavors meld together.  Of course, if there are leftovers, it is even better the following day.

TIRAMISU

1/2 cup sugar 

1/2 cup water

2 cups freshly brewed espresso 

1/4 cup dark rum 

45 ladyfingers

1/3 cup sugar 

6 egg yolks 

1/2 cup heavy cream 

1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese 

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 

Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting 

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the espresso and let cool to room temperature. Stir the rum into the cooled espresso mixture. 
  • Pour the espresso mixture into a wide, shallow bowl. Working in batches, briefly immerse the ladyfingers in the liquid, then transfer them to a plate. Set aside. 
  • To make the filling, select a heatproof bowl that fits snugly in the rim of a saucepan. Pour water to a depth of about 2 inches into the saucepan and bring to a very gentle simmer.
  • Meanwhile, in the heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is pale yellow and creamy, about 2 minutes.
  • Place the bowl over, but not touching, the simmering water in the pan. Using a handheld mixer on medium speed, beat the yolk mixture until very thick and tripled in volume, about 6 minutes.
  • Remove the bowl from the heat and set the yolk mixture aside to cool completely, stirring frequently. 
  • Meanwhile, in a bowl, using the mixer on medium-high speed, beat the cream until stiff peaks form.
  • Add the mascarpone and vanilla to the cooled yolk mixture. Beat with the mixer on medium speed just until smooth and well blended.
  • Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold in the whipped cream just until combined. 
  • To assemble, carefully transfer 15 soaked ladyfingers to a 9-inch square cake pan. Arrange them in a single layer in the bottom of the pan.
  • Using the rubber spatula, evenly spread one-third of the filling over the ladyfingers. Place another layer of 15 ladyfingers over the filling in the pan and evenly spread with half of the remaining filling.
  • Top with the remaining ladyfingers and filling, again spreading evenly. Gently tap the pan against the counter to settle the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to overnight. 
  • Run a small knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the sides. Using a fine-mesh sieve, dust the top with the cocoa powder. Cut into slices and serve directly from the pan.
  • Serves 8. 

 

Roasted Beet Puree with Feta

ImageThis is yet another soup from Williams-Sonoma’s Soup of the Day cookbook. (Eventually I will cook my way through the entire book).  Like everything else I’ve made from this cookbook, the soups come together quickly and always please everyone around the dinner table.  I made this soup as the first course for a dinner where my guests could not eat pork.  This, of course, excluded the use of bacon as a flavoring.  Not to worry though. The roasting of the beets intensifies their flavor with the results being a savory vibrant red color.  Use vegetable broth to make a vegetarian version of the soup.  The soup can be served either hot or cold.  Because it is January I served mine hot but I bet the flavors would be just as good cold.






ROASTED BEET PUREE WITH FETA

Serves 4

3 large red beets, trimmed

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/4 yellow onion, chopped

4 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable broth

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tablespoons chopped dill

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the beets in a baking dish and drizzle with the oil, turning to coat. Roast the beets until they are easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.  Remove from the oven.  When the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and coarsely chop them.
  • In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the beets and broth, bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered for 10  minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
  • Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor (or use a stick blender for easiest cleanup).  Serve warm or let cool to room temperature, transfer to a covered container, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  • Season with salt and pepper and garnish with the feta and chopped dill.

Pumpkin Soup With Spicy Pumpkin Seeds


Nothing says fall or winter more than pumpkin.  From pies to breads to soups, I love everything pumpkin. This creamy pumpkin soup from Williams-Sonoma’s Soup of the Day makes the perfect light dinner when served with a salad and bread but works equally well as the first course of a dinner.   The pumpkin I used had a surprisingly large number of seeds; I cooked them all and ate the extra seeds as a snack for the rest of the week.  Even Sidney loved them!

PUMPKIN SOUP WITH SPICY PUMPKIN SEEDS
 
 
Serves 6
 
1 small pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
FOR THE SPICY PUMPKIN SEEDS
 
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, cleaned
1 teaspoon canola oil
Salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1)  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with tin foil.  Toss the pumpkin with the oil,
season with salt and pepper, and spread on the prepared baking sheet.  Roast the pumpkin until soft
and caramelized, 30-35 minutes.

 

2)  In a large, heavy pot, warm the butte rover medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute
until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin and coriander and cook for 1 minute.  Add the
broth and the pumpkin and bring to a boil.  REduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.
Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

 

3)  Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor (or use a stick blender the way I
do; this makes for speedier clean up).  Return to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

4)  To make the spicy pumpkin seeds, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and line a baking
sheet with tin foil.  In a bowl toss the seeds with the oil.

5)  In another bowl combine 1 teaspoon salt, the cayenne, cumin, and cinnamon.  Add the pumpkin
seeds to the spice mixture and stir to coat.  Spread the seeds in a single layer on the prepared baking
sheet and bake, stirring once, until golden brown, 10-12 minutes.  Serve the soup garnished with the
pumpkin seeds.

 

Gingered Beef Broth With Soba Noodles

This recipe has been adapted from the original one published in Williams- Sonoma’s Soup of the Day. It caught my eye since I had been gifted with a very large quantity of soba noodles and was looking for a way to put a dent in my supply.  The fact that this soup is very easy to make is an added bonus.

The original recipe calls for the addition of bok choy into the broth.  In typical Albanian fashion I had spotted some earlier this week in one of the local grocery stores.  Upon my return, however, not only was there no bok choy to be had but no one in the store even knew what bok choy was.  (Such is life and grocery shopping in Albania).  The store did have Chinese or Napa cabbage so I used that as a substitute.





GINGERED BEEF BROTH WITH SOBA NOODLES
 
 
2 green onions
3 cups beef broth
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
Salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 Chinese cabbage, cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 lb thinly sliced white mushrooms
5 oz soba noodles
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Sriracha sauce for serving (optional)
1)  Thinly slice the green onions, reserving the white and pale green parts in one bowl and the dark
     green parts in a separate bowl.
Aromatics

 

2)  In a large, heavy pot, combine the broth, 3 cups water, the ginger, garlic, and the white and pale
     green parts of the onion.
3)  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain
     the liquid, discarding the solids, and return the broth to the pot.
Broth a steeping
4)  Season with salt and pepper and keep warm over low heat.
5)  In a frying pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil.  Add the Chinese cabbage and mushrooms
     and saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to caramelize and soften, about 6 minutes.
     Set aside.
A double dose of veggies

 

6)  Return the broth to a boil and add the soba noodles. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes.  Add
     the Chinese cabbage, mushrooms, and soy sauce an stir to combine.
7)  Serve, garnished with the dark green onion slices.  Pass the hot sauce at the table, if using.
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