Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Today we met at Carol's house and Jen shared hosting duties.  Also present were baby Vivi and Carol's friend, Vicki.

The theme was Valentine's Day!

Appetizer:  Janet, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Palmier
Salad:  Angie, Pear, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad with Maple Syrup Vinaigrette
Bread:  Angie, Basil, Feta and Roasted Pepper Muffins
Soup:  Jen, Parsnip and Apple
Side:  Mary, Carrot Souffle
Main Dish:  Carol and Jen, Pork Chops and Cipollini  Onions with Madeira Sauce
Dessert:  Carol and Jen, Chocolate Covered Strawberries, Pink Salad and Chocolate Souffles

As always, Carol set a beautiful table full of reds, flowers and hearts.

We started off with Janet's Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Palmier.  These featured pesto wrapped in puff pastry.  By rolling the pastry in towards the center on both sides, you end up with a heart shape or elephant ears (palmier).  These were very tasty and perfectly fit the theme!  

Substitutions to the recipe are as follows:
  • use 1/4 tsp garlic powder rather than garlic cloves
  • use 3/4 tsp of Hebes de Provence rather than 1 1/2 tsp
  • use 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2 tbsp white wine vinegar rather than red wine vinegar

For the bread, I picked Basil, Feta and Roasted Pepper Muffins because of the red color from the peppers AND I could use my heart shaped muffin tins.  The muffins puff up so much you can only see the heart shape on the bottom.  I thought the muffins had a nice texture but not enough flavor.  Next time I would add some more salt and maybe garlic powder and more basil.  These should be served warm and you can re-heat in the microwave.

The salad recipe was found on  I LOVE THAT WEBSITE.  The recipe says to use lettuce, pears, walnuts and blue cheese and then mix up the vinaigrette.  I used spring mix greens and anjou pears.  The vinaigrette is so simple and it will be my go to recipe from now on.  I really liked this salad and the combination of sweet pears and tangy, salty blue cheese and crunchy walnuts.

The soup was lovely and delicately flavored.  Jen had us put apple slices in our bowls, add the soup and then dollop whipped cream and the chives.  Yum!

Parsnip and Apple Soup with Parmesan Chive Foam 
Chef  Darren McGrady " The Royal Chef" to H.M. the Queen of England and Diana Princess of Wales

Serves 4

For the soup

2 Tbs butter
1 lb parsnips - peeled and chopped
1 granny smith apple - peeled and chopped
1 medium onion - peeled and chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
3 cups water
1 chicken  broth cube -  (Knorr)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and  white pepper 

For the garnish

1/4 cup heavy cream - whipped stiff
1 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan
3 Tbs chives - finely chopped
1 granny smith apple - peeled 

1.  Melt the butter in a heavy based pan.  Add the parsnips, onion, and  apple.  Saute for about 5 minutes and then add the coriander, followed by the water and broth cube.  Cook until the parsnips are tender and remove from the heat.
2.  Carefully blend the soup mix and strain. (We've made this soup twice. Once we blended the soup with a blender and another time with an immersion blender.  Both work well).  Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper.Return to the heat, but do not boil.  Adjust the consistency with a little water if needed.
3.  Prepare the garnish by folding the Parmesan and one tablespoon of the chives into the whipped cream.  Grate some of the apple into the bottom of the warm soup bowls and ladle the soup on top. (I chopped the apple into small cubes) .  Spoon the Parmesan cream on top of the soup and garnish with the remaining chives.

For a side dish, Mary made us individual carrot souffles.  They were delicious with a bit of a kick from cayenne pepper.  I have made carrot souffles before and they were sweet whereas these were savory. 

 Pork Chops and Cipollini Onions with Madeira Sauce was the main dish, along with sauteed apples.  The sauce was slightly sweet and the caramelized onions also sweet.  The apples were crisp and their sweetness compliments the pork chops and onions.  Everyone loves pork chops and apple (sauce - Brady Bunch reference).

Pork Chops and Cipollini Onions with Madeira Sauce

4 - 4oz boneless, center cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
Olive oil
12 Cippollini onions or small boiling onions, peeled (about 3/4 lb)
1 tsp. Vanilla Bean Paste
3/4 cup Madeira wine
1 T brown sugar
2T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. cornstarch

Sprinkle pork chops with salt and black pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add chops and onions and cook for 4 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.  Add vanilla and wine to pan, scraping the pan to loosen browned bits.
Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until pork and onions are tender.  Remove pork and onions from pan with a slotted spoon.  Keep warm.  

Combine the brown sugar, vinegar, and cornstarch in  a small bowl; add to wine mixture in pan.  Bring mixture to a boil; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Serve sauce with chops and onions.

Dessert was a trio.  Chocolate covered strawberries, cherry chiffon salad and chocolate souffles. All were delicious and how awesome is having THREE desserts?!

For the strawberries:

1 lb. strawberries with green tops.
1 Dolci frutta  - chocolate shell
1 Dolci frutta -white shell

Wash strawberries and let dry on paper towels.  
Melt Dolci frutta in the microwave according to package directions.

Holding strawberries by green tops, dip into chocolate shell.  

Place on waxed paper or parchment paper until chocolate shell hardens.

Melt white chocolate shell.  Drizzle over chocolate covered strawberries for garnish.

Modifications for the cherry chiffon salad are using crushed pineapple instead of pineapple tidbits.

Spoon into shot glasses, mini parfait dishes or other glass serving dishes.

Garnish with maraschino cherries dipped in the Dolci frutta.

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