Sunday, October 31, 2010

Little Bee: Create a "buzz" with this Beef Wellington

 A slice of my Beef Wellington Served with Green Peppercorn Sauce and Potatoes

I borrowed this book from Melissa and it was awesome

What a novel....Little Bee by Chris Cleave will blow you away.  This was probably one of the most well written, easy to read, and surprisingly good books I have read in a long time. The plot involves several very unlikely characters:  a charmingly courageous refugee from Nigeria, "Little Bee"; a compassionate British magazine editor, and her hilarious and precocious four year old British son (who prefers to be addressed as Batman).  It's basically a story of the journey of a refugee from Nigeria who makes a new life in England. I read this on the plane and the stranger in the seat next to me probably thought I was nuts because I literally laughed out loud in parts.  The author picks the most colorful, vivid and perfect words to describe their thoughts.  A fantastic read - I would recommend for any book club.

You can find more about the book at:

So why a Beef Wellington you may wonder?  The book is based in England, and Beef Wellington is a very traditional British dish.  I went in search of the perfect recipe and found Tyler Florence's recipe for the Ultimate Beef Wellington.  You can find the recipe at:

Here is the Beef Wellington before I cut it. It looked like a loaf of bread!

My Beef Wellington garnished with Thyme and Chives
 This recipe was OUTSTANDING.  I will most definitely make it again. I will warn you that it does take some work, and the ingredients are a little pricey, but make this for a special occasion, and I assure you, your guests will be so impressed.  I made this for my family, and they thought I was a gourmet chef.

Check out the full recipe on the website, but below is the basic method I used:

1) You will need to buy a beef tenderloin. This is basically the fillet Mignon before they slice it. The recipe calls for a 3 pound beef tenderloin, but I was serving a smaller crowd, so I bought one that was a little over 2 pounds.  I went to Publix, and I didn't see any in the meat case, but I asked the butcher to cut me a beef tenderloin, and after doing a little shopping for my other ingredients, I came back and it was all ready for me. 
2) You will need to buy about 10 slices of thinly sliced prosciutto.  Make sure to get the authentic kind, which you can also find at the Publix deli counter.
3) You will need to make a Duxelle.  In order to do this, you will finely chop (in your food processor) mushrooms, shallots, garlic and thyme, which you then saute in olive oil for about 30 minutes or until it is a dry consistency.
4) Then, you will sear the meat on all sides.  Just pour some olive oil on the meat, and in the pan, and using tongs let it sear on each side including the ends.  Make sure to tie it up with kitchen twine before doing this to make for easier handling. Then make sure to cut off the twine :)
5) You will put a big piece of plastic wrap down on the counter and then "shingle" the prosciutto in a row top to bottom, overlapping them slightly.
6) You take the Duxelle you made and spread it over the prosciutto.  It spreads almost like a pate and looks like it too.
7) You put some Dijon mustard on the beef, and then lay it on the row of Duxelle lined Prosciutto
8) Then you use the plastic wrap to roll the tenderloin up very tightly, and seal it, and then put in the fridge for about 30 minutes. It will look like a log.
9) Roll out the puff pastry and then wrap it around the log (take the plastic wrap off first!) Cut slits in the top to let steam escape.
10) Bake at 425 degrees F for about 40 minutes and then let is sit (tented with foil) on top of the stove.

Then...the must make it to go along with your dish. It takes some time, but basically it is a reduction of beef broth, brandy (yes, a whole cup) and cream.  Be very patient and let it reduce in half two times as instructed.  You even get to flambe the brandy with a match, and you will feel very impressed with yourself. The one thing I would leave out next time are the green peppercorns.  The recipe calls for a half cup, which is way too many for this sauce in my opinion. I would probably leave them out all together and put in some black pepper, or maybe just add a few in for looks.

It was AWESOME. I served with roasted potatoes.  Make this when you have some time to dedicate to it, but I promise it is worth it, and if I can do it, anyone can.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Special Edition: Tis the Season for Pumpkin Bread

Slices of my yummy Pumpkin Bread

The second loaf I made was Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Tis the season for Pumpkin! The leaves are changing colors, the air is crisp, and Halloween is right around the corner.  I love Fall! I bought my Pumpkins for my front porch from Whole Foods, and I have a big yellow Mum from Home Depot siting next to them.

I found this recipe for Pumpkin Bread at:

I changed things up a little.


  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • 2/3 cup water

  • 3 cups white sugar

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

  • * Note, I didn't have the ground cloves or ground ginger, so I added a teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice along with the cinnamon and nutmeg. I was a little heavy handed with the spices, but you could use less if you would like a more mild bread.


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7x3 inch loaf pans. * Note: I used 2 bigger loaf pans (I think they were 9x5).
    2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.
    3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
    Some tips:

    - Before I poured the batter into the pans, I greased them heavily with butter and then lightly floured them.  As a result, my loaves came out of the pans so easily.
    - Because I used two pans instead of three, I kept my loaf in the oven for about an hour and then turned off the oven and kept it in about 15 minutes with the door closed because the top was starting to burn, but the inside wasn't done.
    - Make sure you leave enough room between the racks so your loaves have plenty of room to rise - they rise quite a bit.
    - After I poured the batter into the pans, I stirred some mini chocolate chips into one of the loaves (about a cup).

    I brought the pumpkin bread to my tennis match and everyone really liked it.  I wrapped up the other loaf and put it in the freezer for another day! Yum!

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    The Girl Who Played with Fire - Eat with Greek Dolmas

    Here are a few of the Dolmas I made - I made like 50 of them!

    Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

    Now, what, might you ask, do Greek Dolmas have anything to do with this Swedish book, The Girl who Played with Fire?

    Well, two things, 1) this was the challenge recipe given to me this month from the Daring Cooks, and 2) when I was in Greece in 2004, I remember a lot of Swedish people were there on vacation.

    Also, in the book, Faste, one of the side characters, "closed his eyes for a second and thought about a visit he had paid to the police in Greece when he was on vacation some years earlier."

    The Girl who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larson, is a follow-up to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I blogged about in my first post.  This book is a page turner, and I found it easier to read than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  The setting starts out in Grenada, where Lisbeth Salander (the main character) is hiding out.  Quickly, the book turns into a murder mystery with Salander as the main suspect.  The plot thickens...I couldn't put it down.

    You can learn more about this book at:

    There are several food references in the book:
    1) The strong coffee is still mentioned throughout and well as sandwiches- those Swedes like their coffee and sandwiches.
    2) In Grenada, Lisbeth "sat on the veranda and ordered a plate of calamari and chips with a bottle of Carib, the local beer."
    3) Back in Sweden, "Mia Johansson cut the cheesecake and decorated each slice with a scoop of raspberry ice cream."
    4) Lisbeth is constantly stocking up on Billy's Pan Pizza. This is a real Swedish pizza as I looked up the website:

    Here is a picture of the food she eats all the time
    5) Those cinnamon rolls I blogged about in The Girl with the Dragon tattoo reappear, "....turned to see officer Bubble balancing two cups of coffee on his notebook, with a blue bag of cinnamon rolls from the local kiosk in the other hand."

    Here is the recipe I used to make the Greek Dolmas:

    The filling I used contained:
    1 and 1/3 lb of ground beef browned with 1 chopped yellow onion in 2 Tbsp of olive oil
    I added in:
    2 1/2 cups of cooked white rice
    2 ounces of pine nuts
    1/4 cup of raisins
    3 Tbsp tomato paste
    1 1/2 Tbsp dried dill weed
    1 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
    1 1/2 Tbsp dried mint
    4 tsp kosher salt (to taste)
    2 tsp all spice
    2 tsp cumin
    1 tsp ground pepper

    I used jarred grape leaves that i found in Whole Food and rinsed them according to the directions in boiling water.

    I found these Grape Leaves at Whole Foods
    I then rolled them up with the filling, and put them in a pan with some olive oil, lemon juice and water to finish them. I garnished with lemon juice, parsley, green onions and mint. They fell apart a little bit at the end, but they were pretty tasty.

    I probably won't make them again, but if you're a Dolmas fan, it really was pretty easy!

    Sunday, October 10, 2010

    Toast to the Weekend with Challah French Toast with Blackberry/Raspberry Sauce

    Toast to the weekend with this fabulous French Toast

    I made the most delicious French Toast.  I just finished two books for my upcoming posts, but I couldn't resist posting this recipe.  I did get this recipe from Ina Garten's cookbook. This recipe was on the front cover of her cookbook.

    You can get the recipe at:

    I doubled the recipe as I had a large group, but the single recipe is listed below.

    • 6 extra-large eggs
    • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half or milk (I used whole milk)
    • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 tablespoon good honey
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 large loaf challah or brioche bread (I used Challah bread - bakery section at Publix)
    • Unsalted butter
    • Vegetable oil
    I made a blackberry/raspberry syrup to go on top of the french toast. I took a bag of frozen blackberries and half a bag of frozen raspberry and brought to a boil on the stove along with confectioners sugar.  I used quite a bit of the confectioners sugar (maybe 1 cup), but you could use more or less. Start with less and keep adding until it tastes how you like it.  I let it simmer until a thick syrup like consistency. It was perfect.

    Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

    In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, orange zest, vanilla, honey, and salt. Slice the challah in 3/4-inch thick slices. Soak as many slices in the egg mixture as possible for 5 minutes, turning once.

    Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a very large saute pan over medium heat. Add the soaked bread and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until nicely browned. Place the cooked French toast on a sheet pan and keep it warm in the oven. Fry the remaining soaked bread slices, adding butter and oil as needed, until it's all cooked. Serve hot with maple syrup, raspberry preserves, and/or confectioners' sugar OR make the Blackberry/Raspberry Syrup I made...yum :)