Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Baked Pears with Spiced Mascarpone

I used to always get confused over what exactly mascarpone was - a cheese or a cream?  It is the color and texture of a thick cream and is often used in desserts, but it is actually a cheese.  It's a very rich, triple-cream, cow's milk cheese.  I really don't care what it is, it's delicious!

Mascarpone has many uses in both sweet and savory dishes.  It can be used as a filling, a thickener to help smooth out sauces and risottos, a spread, or in this case, a dessert topping.  I added a bit of liquid and some spices to thin it out and enhance the flavor.  It was the perfect topping for these caramelized baked pears. 

Baked Pears with Spiced Mascarpone


Spiced mascarpone:
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 orange, juiced and zested, extra zest to garnish
1 1/2 tbsp honey

Baked Pears:
4 pears, sliced in half lengthwise, core removed
1 large glass of white wine
1 orange, juiced
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp flaked almonds, toasted, to serve


1. For the spiced mascarpone, whisk all ingredients together and refrigerate for atleast an hour before use.

2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Put the pears cut side down into a tight fitting pan.  In small sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, wine, vanilla extract, and orange juice and bring to the boil.  Pour over the pears and put into oven. 

3. While the pears are cooking, baste every 5-10 minutes with the cooking syrup.  Cook for about 30 minutes until the pears are tender all the way through.  Remove from the oven to cool.

4. While pears are still warm, serve with chilled spiced mascarpone.  Garnish with orange zest and flaked almonds.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Roasted Squash with Chili Citrus Sauce

This is a great side dish for one of those chilly, winter nights, which we are having quite a few of lately in Melbourne.  You can use any kind of pumpkin (what we call squash in North America) for this recipe.  I used a Jap pumpkin, or kabocha which is pretty common in Australia during this season. 

Roasting the squash ensures a comforting, savory aspect to the dish while the citrus and fresh herbs really brighten it up.  And, of course, you need the chili for that extra punch.  If this doesn't warm you up, I don't know what will!

Roasted Squash with Chili Citrus Sauce


1/2 Jap pumpkin, cut lengthwise into wedges
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
2 red chilis, finely chopped, more or less to taste
1/2 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Toss squash with 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and 2 tbsp olive oil.  Place cut side down on a baking tray.

3. Roast squash until tender and cut sides are starting to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes depending on thickness.  Flip once during cooking if desired.

4. Meanwhile, combine juices, chilis, garlic, chopped cilantro and remaining salt and olive oil.  Let sit at room temperature while squash cooks. 

5. Serve squash drizzled with citrus sauce and sprinkled with fresh cilantro.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Perfect Roast Chicken?

I personally don't believe there is a 'perfect' method for roasting a chicken.  There are many different methods and techniques that will yield that crisp, juicy skin and succulent, tender meat.  It really depends on the result that you would like to acheive.  Are you looking for a burst of flavor?  Is presentation key?  Do you want perfectly moist chicken breasts?

I love experimenting with new approaches but I do have a few steps that I find key to getting my desired flavor and texture.  To start, I always rub butter under the skin to help keep the meat moist and add a bit of flavor.  Make sure to season your chicken well, both inside and out.  For added flavor, stuff the cavity with a combination of herbs and aromatics, not only to flavor the meat but the pan juices as well.  Take advantage of the pan juices!  There's nothing better to serve your chicken with than those juices that have been roasting away.  Look forward to a delicious, comforting dinner and leftovers for lunch!

Honey Roasted Chicken with Rosemary


1 (5 pound) chicken, rinsed and patted dry
5 sprigs rosemary
3 lemons, 1 quartered, 2 juiced and zested
3 tbsp butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 onion, quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup honey
Salt and pepper
2 cups chicken broth


1. Preheat the oven to 450.

2. Chop 3 rosemary sprigs and combine with butter and lemon zest.  Use your fingers to separate breast and leg skin from the meat and rub butter mixture under the skin.

3. Stuff the chicken cavity with remaining rosemary, garlic, lemon quarters and onion and place in a roasting pan. 

4. Combine the oil, honey, and lemon juice and pour over chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

5.  Roast the chicken for 15 minutes.  Baste the chicken and add half of the broth to the pan.  Reduce the temperature to 375 degrees and cover with foil.  Roast for 45 minutes. Baste the chicken again and add the remaining broth.  Roast for an additional 30 minutes or until an internal temperature of 160 degrees at the thickest part of the leg.

6. Remove the chicken, cover, and let rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Pour the pan juices into small saucepan and spoon off fat.  Cook over medium high for 10 minutes to reduce.  You may also thicken sauce by adding a slurry of cornstarch (mixture of cornstarch with a bit of water).  Season and serve over chicken.

Any tips and tricks you'd like to share for your perfect roast chicken?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I HOPE the way to your heart is through your stomach!

I know I've been a bit MIA lately... I've been traveling for the last 5 weeks and it was hard to justify spending time on the computer rather than spending time with friends and family, playing with my neice, visiting my 90-year-old grandmother, relaxing on the beach, celebrating my future sister-in-law's wedding... and the list goes on.  Enough excuses, I'll leave it at that.  Please accept my apology and I'll attempt to make amends by offering up one heck of a recipe. 

I didn't have many opportunities to lose myself in the kitchen while I was in the States but I made sure to take advantage of the seasonal summer produce whenever I could.  There's nothing better than going shopping with an open mind and being inspired by the fresh and local produce.  On one of those rare nights that I was able to cook dinner, I was greeted by an enormous display of cherries upon walking into the grocery store.  That made for an easy decision!  Not only are cherries deliciously sweet but they also contain numerous health and healing properties.  I always make sure to look for those that are large, firm and have an even deep red coloring. 

A nice cherry and wine sauce over some browned pork came to mind.  When I hear cherries and wine, I immediately think Pinot Noir, done.  I picked up a few more items and hurried home to the tune of my stomach rumbling.  Let's get to it, I've talked enough.  Without going into any more description, it was too die for!

Spiced Pork with Pinot Noir & Cherry Sauce


Pinot Cherry Sauce:
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 cup Pinot Noir
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

For the chops:
4 bone-in pork loin chops
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

2. For cherry sauce, heat oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook for about 4 minutes or until soft.  Add remaining ingredients and increase heat.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until desired consistency. 

3. Meanwhile, mix spices for pork chops and season evenly.  Heat oil over medium high in an oven-safe pan and cook pork chops on one side for 4 minutes until browned.  Flip chops and place pan in the oven.  Cook for about 10 minutes until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F (pork will continue to rise in temperature after removed from the oven).  Cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. 

4. Serve pork chops with sauce spooned over the top.  Sprinkle with fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley.

Hmmm... what to do with the rest of that bottle of Pinot... 


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