Monthly Archives: September 2010

Caramel Macchiato Popcorn Balls

Why shouldn’t adults enjoy the whimsical play of a dessert on a stick?  Here’s a popcorn ball that’s not just for kids!

Traditional popcorn balls are usually loaded with gooey sweetness, but I’ve created a contemporary version with more grown-up appeal.  These coffeehouse-inspired popcorn balls are made with caramel, chocolate and espresso powder—what a combination!

Did you know that macchiato means marked or stained?  In this case, the popcorn is “marked” with a little espresso.  You have to try them—I’ve already eaten 3.  Okay, maybe 4!!!!

as photographed by our team, alacartepartners

Caramel Macchiato Popcorn Balls
Makes 6 popcorn balls

8 cups popped popcorn
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon warm water
20 caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 popsicle or craft sticks

– Place popcorn in large bowl. In small bowl, stir together espresso powder and warm water.

– In medium glass bowl, microwave caramels, chocolate chips and espresso mixture on HIGH (100%) power, 1 and 1/2 minutes. Stir
mixture until completely melted.
– Pour caramel mixture over popcorn and quickly stir until popcorn is well coated.  Using greased  hands, shape mixture into 6 balls.
Insert a stick into each ball.

– Store in airtight container up to 1 week.

Tips

– You can use store-bought popcorn; air popped popcorn or your favorite microwave popcorn.

– For a sweeter treat, use kettle corn.

– Instead of forming the popcorn mixture into balls, spread it in single layer on a baking sheet.  Let sit for 30 minutes and break into clusters.

– For added coffeehouse flavor, stir 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon into the espresso mixture.

Cathy

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Filed under Caramels, Chocolate, Dessert, Popcorn, Snacks

Fig-mania

Okay, is it just me, or is there a fig craze afoot? From fig vinegars and fig chutneys to fig spreads and fig jams, I seem to be encountering figs everywhere I turn. Just yesterday I noticed pint baskets of fresh figs at my local supermarket. And last month, while driving to the beach in North Carolina, I stopped at Morris Farm Market and what was the first thing I spotted?  A gorgeous display of fresh figs!

I bought a quart and we enjoyed experimenting with them over the next few days…we tried them grilled on pizza, drizzled with olive oil and added to arugula salad, and we even invented a bittersweet chocolate & fig dessert sauce that we poured over vanilla ice cream. Today, I was walking along Canal Street in Chinatown and there among the dried lychees and live crabs were, yes, pints of fresh figs, at the very reasonable price of two for $3!

So, in the spirit of fig-mania, we present Cathy’s latest fig concoction. And if you have a favorite fig recipe, please share it!

Heather

Tortelloni with Sautéed Figs & Goat Cheese
makes 2 main dish servings or 4 appetizer servings

3 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
6 figs, quartered (I used Kadota figs)
2 Tbs. chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1 pkg. (9 oz) fresh portabello mushroom and cheese tortelloni (or your favorite
tortelloni or tortellini)
3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

– In large skillet, heat butter over medium heat until lightly browned.  Add onions; cook and stir until browned.  Remove onions from skillet.  To skillet, add figs, walnuts, salt and pepper; cook until figs just start to soften. Remove skillet from heat.

-Meanwhile, cook tortelloni according to package directions, draining and reserving 2 Tbs. pasta water.

– To skillet, add tortelloni, reserved pasta water, cooked onions, goat cheese and basil; cook over low heat just until cheese melts.  Serve immediately.

FUN FIG FACTS

The most common figs grown in the United States come from California, and are generally available from mid-May thru mid-December. The four common varieties include:

Mission: deep purple skin (darkens to a rich black when dried) with pink flesh; sweet
Kadota:  green skinned with amber flesh; practically seedless; slightly sweet
Calimyrna:  golden skin with pink flesh; nutty flavor
Brown Turkey:  brownish copper skin with pink/red flesh; mildly sweet

Use fresh figs within a day or so after buying them as they are very fragile!

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Filed under Cheese, Fruit, Main Dishes, Pasta

End-of-Summer Salmon

Summer is coming to a close, and what better way to say good-bye than with a delicious grilled salmon dinner? As a food stylist, I think of salmon as a “pretty” fish. Its rich orange color is a beauty! While you can slather salmon with a marinade, I prefer a simple dry rub. There are so many really interesting

as photographed by our team à la Carte Partners

flavorful rubs on the market.  In the recipe and photo above, I’ve used Bone Suckin’ Sauce Seasoning and Rub.  It is a blend of brown sugar, paprika, garlic and spices. McCormicks also has a great line of products called Grill Mates—Seafood Rub, Applewood Rub, and Sweet & Smoky Rub to name a few.  You can also make up your own rub with seasonings that fit your tastes. Experiment… it’s what makes cooking fun!!

Grilled Salmon

Makes 4 servings

4   salmon filets (6-oz. or 3/4-inch thick)
1-2 tablespoons Bone Suckin’ Sauce Seasoning and Rub

– Prepare grill & grease lightly
– With tweezers, remove any small bones from salmon steaks.
– With hands, rub seasoning over both sides of salmon steaks.
– Place salmon on hot grill rack. Cover grill and cook salmon 8 to 9 minutes, or until just opaque throughout, turning over once.

Tip

– Salmon is considered an oily fish, which contributes to its healthy attributes.  It is high in protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D.

-Cathy


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Filed under BBQ, Seafood

Perfect Peach Daiquiri

At least once a summer, I try to time my vacation travel to include a stop at Stoudt’s Fruit Farm Stand, just off I-78 in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania. Why? Well, they have all kinds of excellent homegrown produce, but really, it’s all about the peaches for me.

Stoudt’s sells some of the best tree-ripened peaches you will find anywhere, and they’re always worth the trip (or the detour). This afternoon I stopped and purchased a peck of Freestone Yellow Peaches, and they are, once again, mouth-wateringly delicious.

Although we will enjoy most of them plain because they are just too good to consider cooking or baking with, I have set aside a few for my favorite summertime drink, the Peach Daiquiri. A lot of peach daiquiri recipes are overly fussy, involving simple syrup, lime juice, powdered sugar, and even daiquiri mix (oh no!) However, I do not think any of that is necessary, because when you start with peaches this good, the recipe is simple—just three ingredients!

Perfect Peach Daiquiri
Makes 1 drink

1 magnificent tree-ripened peach, peeled, pitted  and cut up
1 cup crushed ice
2 ounces golden rum

– Place all ingredients in blender with tight-fitting lid. Puree until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately. If desired, garnish with a peach slice and a mint sprig. Find a sunset view and a rocking chair, and  sip slowly.

Tips – If a peach is truly ripe, the skin will peel off easily using a paring knife. Otherwise, drop peaches in boiling water for about 45 seconds then drop in ice water for about 1 minute.  The skin should come off easily. – White rum can be substituted for golden rum, but the flavor will not be as deep. If using white rum, add a tablespoon of fresh lime juice for extra flavor.

Heather

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Filed under Drinks, Entertaining